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Witness Says Politkovskaya Suspect Was Russian Agent

Sergei Sokolov, who declined to reveal the source for his claim, is editor in chief of Politkovskaya's former newspaper.
MOSCOW (Reuters) -- One of the men suspected of helping to kill Kremlin critic Anna Politkovskaya was working as a secret agent for Russia's domestic intelligence service, a witness at the murder trial has said.

The murder of Politkovskaya, an investigative reporter who reported on human rights abuses in October 2006 was one of the highest-profile killings during the eight-year rule of former President Vladimir Putin.

Two Chechen brothers, Dzhabrail and Ibragim Makhmudov, are charged with tracking Politkovskaya and former police officer Sergei Khadzhikurbanov is accused of providing technical help. All three say they are innocent.

Sergei Sokolov, a senior editor at Politkovskaya's newspaper, told a court that Dzhabrail Makhmudov was working as an agent for the Federal Security Service (FSB).

"It has become known to me that Dzhabrail Makhmudov was an agent," Sokolov, who state prosecutors had called to give evidence, told the court.

When Sokolov was asked by defense lawyers and the judge how he had come by such information, he refused to disclose his sources. "I have never been an agent of the FSB," Dzhabrail Makhmudov said from the cage where the defendants sit.

His defense lawyers also denied he had ever been an agent. A FSB spokesman later declined to comment.