The judge in the trial of three people accused of being involved in the murder of Anna Politkovskaya (photo), an investigative journalist and Kremlin critic, decided on Wednesday to close it to the public. Lawyers said that it could hinder justice being done.
This step overturned an earlier ruling that the trial be held in public, saying jurors had refused to enter the courtroom in the presence of reporters, a lawyer for Politkovskaya’s family said.
“From our point of view, they were simply afraid of fulfilling their duty”, said Karina Moskalenko.
“I am deeply frustrated because the decision cannot be appealed against.”
Saying that it was the only way to ensure justice was done in the politically charged case, lawyers for the three defendants as well as for Ms Politkovskaya‘s family had pressed for the trial to be opened up to public scrutiny.
“It is simply outrageous that they [the jurors] didn’t even come out into the court room”, Said Arsamirzayev, a lawyer for one of the accused, said.
“We have all been treated like little kids: We were shown the candy and promised a fair and open trial, but now we understand it is not going to be the case and we will have closed hearings”, he said.
Ms Politkovskaya, 48 when she died, was a books and articles writer who fiercely criticised Vladimir Putin, particularly for abuses committed by Russian forces during the second Chechen war, which took place under his watch.
She was killed while returning home carrying bags of groceries from a shopping trip. Her death sparked outrage internationally and among opposition groups in Russia. Some critics pointed the finger of blame at the Russian leadership.