Judge's dismissal requested in Politkovskaya trial

26th November 2008, Comments 0 comments

A participant in the closed-door trial told Interfax that the prosecutors had accused the judge of bias.

Moscow -- Prosecutors called Tuesday for the dismissal of the judge in the trial of three men accused of murdering investigative journalist Anna Politkovskaya, Russian news agencies reported.

Evgeny Zubov, the presiding judge at a Moscow Military Court, must be replaced for his failure to observe the correct procedures, said Marina Gridneva, spokeswoman for the General Prosecutor's office.

Earlier Tuesday, a participant in the closed-door trial told Interfax that the prosecutors had accused the judge of bias.

The development came shortly after the judge reportedly reversed an earlier decision and allowed journalists to start covering the hearing, according to a lawyer for the defense.

"The judge himself put the question up for discussion and the decision was taken to hold a public trial," Murad Musayev, a lawyer for one of the defendants, told news agency Interfax on Tuesday.

Zubov has been embroiled in controversy since last week's decision to close the trial to the public and media that drew protests lawyers and at least one juror in the trial.

He withdrew from the courtroom until a decision was arrived at on Wednesday.

Politkovskaya, a fierce Kremlin critic, was gunned down in a contract killing in front of her central Moscow apartment in 2006.

The award-winning journalist for the daily Novaya Gazeta reported on alleged human rights abuses by the Kremlin during two wars in Chechnya in the early 1990s.

Police officer Sergei Khadzhikurbanov and two Chechen brothers, Dzhabrail and Ibragim Makhmudov, stand accused of plotting the murder of Politkovskaya.

But investigators are still hunting for the alleged triggerman, Chechen Rustam Makhmudov.

The slain journalist's family and colleagues have sharply criticized the trial, saying the defendants are only loosely tied to the murder and no one has been named in ordering the killing.

Defense lawyer Musayev told reporters Tuesday that Politkovskaya's murder had been ordered by a Russian politician as revenge for her outspoken articles. He said that politician was still based inside the country.

The jury was called back to the courtroom Tuesday, one week earlier than planned, to decide procedural issues, a spokesman for the Moscow Military Court said.

One such issue appeared to be the discharging of one of the 20 jurors, Evgeny Kolesov, after he publicly challenged judge Zubov's ruling to hold closed proceedings.

Zubov told the court Tuesday he was discharging Kolesov for breaking rules forbidding jurors from discussing details of the case.

Kolesov appeared on broadcaster Ekho Moskvy last week to deny the judge's statement that the jury had requested that the press be barred from the courtroom.


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