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Trial Of Alleged Killers Of U.S. Journalist Opens In Moscow

Paul Klebnikov (epa) 10 January 2006 -- Three ethnic Chechens accused of killing U.S. journalist Paul Klebnikov went on trial behind closed doors in a Moscow court today.

Klebnikov, the editor of Forbes magazine's Russian edition, was gunned down in the Russian capital in July 2004.

Two of the defendants are charged with carrying out the killing. The third, a Moscow notary, is accused of organizing the criminal group that carried out the murder.

Prosecutors say that Klebnikov was killed on the orders of another Chechen, Khozh-Akhmed Nukhaev. Nukhaev, who remains at large, was the subject of a critical book written by Klebnikov.

A defense lawyer, Ruslan Khasanov, said all three defendants pleaded innocent at the court hearing.

The U.S.-based Committee to Protect Journalists on 9 January criticized the court's decision to close the jury trial to the public and called for a "transparent and credible prosecution."

Klebnikov had investigated murky business dealings and corruption in post-Soviet Russia.