Russia rules nationalist leader masterminded rights lawyer shooting

14th July 2015, Comments 0 comments

A Russian jury on Tuesday found a nationalist leader guilty of organising eight hate killings including the high-profile daylight shooting of a prominent rights lawyer.

Moscow City Court found Ilya Goryachev, a former journalist and pro-Kremlin activist, guilty of ordering the gunning down of 34-year-old lawyer Stanislav Markelov on a busy street in 2009 as he walked from a news conference.

A 25-year-old reporter at an opposition newspaper, Novaya Gazeta, Anastasia Baburova, was also shot dead as she accompanied Markelov.

"A jury found Goryachev guilty," the powerful Investigative Committee which probes serious crimes, said in a statement on its website.

A slight, bespectacled figure in court, Goryachev had pleaded not guilty.

A nationalist activist Nikita Tikhonov is currently serving a life sentence for shooting Markelov, while his co-accused Yevgenia Khasis was sent to a penal colony for 18 years.

"It was Goryachev who gave Tikhonov the assignment to murder lawyer Stanislav Markelov," investigators said.

Goryachev felt "ideological hatred and enmity" towards Markelov due to his "professional activities in defending the rights of victims with anti-fascist views," they added.

Russian investigators said Goryachev and Tikhonov were among the founders in 2008 of a "highly organised" and heavily armed group called the Battle Organisation of Russian Nationalists, or BORN.

Goryachev, 33, studied history at a Moscow university before founding a radical group with Tikhonov called Russian Image, inspired by a Serbian ultra-nationalist movement.

He worked for a time on an Orthodox television channel and wrote articles for several newspapers. He also claimed to have worked as an assistant for two MPs.

The BORN group committed dozens of crimes including eight murders, investigators said, with their victims including a judge, several anti-fascist campaigners and members of ethnic minorities.

"The aim of the group was to commit extremist crimes and attacks on civilians -- to commit murders motivated by ideological and nationalist hatred and enmity, to make attempts on the lives of law enforcement officials," the Investigative Committee said after the verdict.

In April, three members of the group were sentenced to up to life in jail for the murders as well as several attempted murders.

Goryachev fled the country in 2010 after being questioned as a witness in the Markelov case. He was detained in Serbia in 2013 and extradited to Russia later that year.

His sentencing is set for July 15.

© 2015 AFP

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