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RUSSIA - Politkovskaya conviction welcome, but masterminds behind her murder continue to elude justice

Friday 21 December 2012 - 12:00am

RAN 78/12 21 December 2012

PEN International welcomes last week’s conviction of the former police chief who helped orchestrate Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya’s murder in 2006, but is concerned that the masterminds behind her killing continue to enjoy impunity. A Moscow court sentenced Lt. Col. Pavlyuchenkov to 11 years in prison on 14 December 2012, after he entered a plea bargain that allowed him to admit his guilt without testifying in court. He named two exiled opposition figures as masterminds behind the killing in what Politkovskaya’s family have called “politically-motivated” testimony. The family’s lawyers are presently planning an appeal, calling for Pavlyuchenkov to be given a longer sentence.

A prominent investigative journalist and writer who had garnered acclaim for her coverage of the Chechen conflict (including the books, A Dirty War: A Russian Reporter in Chechnya (2001) and A Small Corner of Hell: Dispatches from Chechnya (2003)), Politkovskaya had also been a vocal critic of President Vladimir Putin, describing him as a “power-hungry product of his own history in the armed forces” in her 2004 book, Putin’s Russia. Over the years, her work led to threats against her life as well as severe harassment at the hands of Russian authorities.

On 7 October 2006, Anna Politkovskaya was found dead in the lift of her Moscow apartment; she had been shot in the head, executed in what was clearly a contract killing. The trial of the three men accused of carrying out the killing – brothers Rustam Makhmudov, Dzhabrail Makhmudov and Ibragim Makhmudov – began on 17 November 2008, but all three were acquitted due to a lack of evidence on 19 February 2009 after a trial which was described at the time as “seriously flawed”. This ruling was overturned by the Russian Supreme Court, which ordered the three to be rearrested and retried. Later, the former head of surveillance at Moscow’s Main Internal Affairs Directorate Lt. Col. Dmitry Pavlyuchenkov was also charged, alongside former police officer Sergei Khadzhikurbanov and an already incarcerated criminal, Chechen crime boss Lom Ali Gaitukayev. The trial of these other 5 suspects implicated in Politkovskaya’s murder is still on-going.

Pavluychenkov – who arranged and carried out the surveillance on Politkovskaya, secured the services of the three Chechen brothers and provided them with the murder weapon – has named as the alleged masterminds of Politkovskaya’s murder the exiled Russian oligarch Boris Berezovsky and Chechen separatist leader Akhmed Zakayev. Official investigations into their involvement have reportedly proved fruitless, and legal representatives of Politkovskaya’s children insist that the Berezovsky-Zakayev allegations are devoid of evidence. In an interview with the Committee to Protect Journalists, head of Novaya Gazeta’s department of investigations Sergey Sokolov said: “We are getting the impression that law enforcement is unwilling to get to the bottom of the crime chain, because, apparently, the mastermind is an influential person in the Russian power hierarchy”.

For More Information:

BBC News:

Committee to Protect Journalists:

Please Send Appeals:

• Urging the Russian government to bring to justice everyone involved in the murder of Anna Politkovskaya.
• Emphasising the importance of pursuing the masterminds behind the murder as an indication of Russia’s commitment to ensure that such acts cannot be carried out with impunity.

Appeals to:
President Vladimir Putin
President of the Russian Federation
23, Ilyinka Street
Moscow, 103132

You can send messages to President Putin on the Kremlin website.

You may find that the Russian ambassador in your own country is more likely to respond to your appeals, so we recommend that you either write to him or her directly or send a copy of your appeal. You can find the Russian embassy in your country here.

**Please contact the PEN WiPC office in London if sending appeals after 31 January 2012**

For further information please contact Sara Whyatt at PEN International Writers in Prison Committee, Brownlow House, 50/51 High Holborn, London WC1V 6ER; Tel.+ 44 (0) 20 7405 0338; + 44 (0) 20 7405 0338; Fax: +44 (0) 20 7405 0339; Email: