Moscow court acquits three defendants in Politkovskaya murder
The defendants, two Chechen brothers and a former police officer, were accused of being accomplices in the contract assassination. Critics have been crying foul since the trial opened last November, since neither the actual killer nor the alleged mastermind who ordered Ms. Politkovskaya's death have ever been caught or even named by authorities.
Lawyers representing Politkovskaya's relatives and her former employer, the crusading Moscow weekly Novaya Gazeta, said they were not deterred by the verdict and would seek a fresh investigation.
"We want to see the real killer in the dock, and we will succeed," lawyer Karina Moskalenko told journalists.
The official investigation into Politkovskaya's murder has been dogged by allegations of bias, foot-dragging, and outright incompetence on the part of the prosecutors, chronicled here in a Monitor story.
Key suspects thought to be involved in the planning of the murder, including a former officer of the FSB security service, Lt. Col. Pavel Ryaguzov, were released without explanation.
Critics complained that authorities had already made up their minds that the assassination was carried out by anti-Kremlin exiles abroad, and were not following up any other leads.
Many critics saw Politkovskaya's murder as possibly linked with the suspicious deaths of several other Kremlin foes, including the bizarre polonium poisoning of ex-FSB agent Alexander Litvinenko in London in November 2006. (For details of that case, click here.)
Human rights organizations have been quick to blame Russian authorities for Thursday's verdict, which they say only highlights the ongoing threat to dissenting journalists in Russia, where 20 have been killed in the past nine years.
"This verdict is the result of an incomplete investigation that was brought to trial prematurely," the Paris-based Reporters Without Borders said in a statement. "Until the trigger man and the masterminds are identified, it will be impossible to know who ordered this murder and why. . .. The case cannot be regarded as over."