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Russian Court Opens Politkovskaya Trial To Press


Suspects in the murder trial of journalist Anna Politkovskaya sit in the defendants' cage in a Moscow court.
MOSCOW (Reuters) -- A Russian judge has lifted a ban on journalists covering the trial of three men accused of helping to murder journalist and Kremlin critic Anna Politkovskaya, said lawyers.

Judge Yevgeny Zubov ruled last week that the politically charged trial would be held behind closed doors, drawing fierce criticism from Politkovskaya's family who alleged an official cover-up.

The trial resumed on November 25 after an adjournment with the media waiting outside the courtroom. But after about 30 minutes, some journalists were allowed in, a Reuters reporter at the scene said.

Karina Moskalenko, a lawyer for Politkovskaya's family, and Murat Musayev, a member of the defense team, both said the judge had decided to open the trial to the public.

"He [the judge] called in the jury and asked them if they were opposed to having an open court, and they said they were not against," Musayev said.

A fierce critic of the Kremlin, Politkovskaya was shot dead on October 7, 2006, outside her apartment in Moscow, causing a widespread outcry in the West and raising questions about Russia's commitment to freedom of speech.

A 48-year-old mother of two, she had reported on human rights abuses in Russia's turbulent Chechnya region and elsewhere, and had received numerous threats.

Her murder was one of the highest-profile killings during former President Vladimir Putin's eight-year rule. The prosecution of the three suspects is under intense scrutiny, with media freedom groups demanding a thorough trial.

Her family says the investigation is incomplete because the man suspected of pulling the trigger is on the run and no one has been charged with ordering the killing.

Dzhabrail Makhmudov and Ibragim Makhmudov, brothers from Chechnya, are accused of helping arrange Politkovskaya's murder along with former policeman Sergei Khadzhikurbanov. They all deny the charges.