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Jury to hear Politkovskaya murder case this month

Five men will stand trial later this month for the murder of renowned journalist and Kremlin critic Anna Politkovskaya, a court in Moscow said on Tuesday.

The jury will be selected on June 20 with the first public hearing the following day, Judge Pavel Melekhin ruled at a closed-door session at Moscow City Court, according to the RAPSI legal news agency.

The five men are pleading not guilty to the 2006 killing of Politkovskaya, perhaps the most high-profile journalist murder in recent years in Russia.

Investigators have failed to identify a mastermind behind the shooting of Politkovskaya, well-known for her pieces in the Novaya Gazeta newspaper criticising President Vladimir Putin’s policies in the North Caucasus.

The defendants include four Chechens — Lom-Ali Gaitukayev, who is accused of organising the crime along with his three nephews, Rustam, Ibragim and Dzhabrail Makhmudov — and a former Moscow police officer, Sergei Khadzhikurbanov.

Rustam Makhmudov is thought to be the man who gunned down Politkovskaya, 48, in her apartment building on October 7, 2006.

Dzhabrail and Ibragim Makhmudov and Khadzhikurbanov have already been tried and acquitted over the affair, but the verdict was overturned by the supreme court. It then halted a retrial in 2009, sending the case back for more investigation.

Three of the suspects are being held in detention, while two are free but subject to a travel ban.

Another former police officer, Dmitry Pavlyuchenkov, concluded a plea bargain with prosecutors and confessed his guilt in tracking Politkovskaya and providing the murder weapon. He was sentenced to 11 years in prison in December.

The hearings in the long-running case will be held four days a week, the judge said.

The defendants had requested a jury trial. They also asked the judge to send the case back to prosecutors to remove errors in the paperwork, which was refused.