The trial of four men charged over the 2006 murder of outspoken Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya will be held behind closed doors, a judge ruled Wednesday, infuriating her family and lawyers.
“This trial will continue as a closed trial,” Judge Yevgeny Zubov, who is presiding over the case in a Moscow military court, said at a trial hearing in which the four men including an ex-secret service officer pleaded not guilty.
“This is for the security of the participants in the trial, that of their relatives and their loved ones,” Zubov said, adding that jury members had said they were too scared to appear in the courtroom in front of journalists.
Wednesday’s ruling sparked heated scenes as lawyers for both Politkovskaya’s family and two of the defendants argued there were no grounds for closing the trial and said the decision would harm Russia’s image abroad.
“This is a politically motivated decision by the government,” said Dmitry A. Muratov, the editor in chief of Novaya Gazeta, where Ms. Politkovskaya worked as an investigative reporter. “It is an attempt to cover up the facts in this case.”
“From our point of view, they were simply afraid of fulfilling their duty,” said Karinna Moskalenko, who represents Politkovskaya’s family. “I am deeply frustrated because the decision cannot be appealed against,” she said.
Moskalenko said Chechnya’s pro-Moscow leader Ramzan Kadyrov should answer questions in the case. Kadyrov had not been questioned by investigators yet, although he is repeatedly mentioned in case files and witness accounts.
None of the three men – two Chechen brothers and a former police officer – on trial is actually accused of ordering the murder or firing the weapon that killed Politkovskaya. A lawyer for one of the accused said that they had all pleaded not guilty.