MOSCOW (AP) — A Moscow judge ordered a closed trial Wednesday for a former police officer accused of involvement in the murder of Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya in 2006.
Dmitry Pavlyuchenkov, who allegedly helped track Politkovskaya's movements and provided the triggerman with a gun, has reached a deal with authorities that would allow him to qualify for a reduced sentence in exchange for cooperation with investigators.
Politkovskaya's relatives opposed the deal, saying it wouldn't help find the mastermind. They asked for the arrangements to be annulled and requested open hearings for Pavlyuchenkov, but the judge dismissed their complaints as the trial began Wednesday.
The suspected triggerman and four others accused in the case will be tried separately.
Politkovskaya, a sharp critic of the Kremlin and its policies in Chechnya, was gunned down in the elevator of her Moscow apartment building on Oct. 7, 2006. The murder caused international outrage, and investigators' failure to determine who ordered the killing has rankled journalists and rights activists.
Anna Stavitskaya, the lawyer for Politkovskaya's children Ilya and Vera, argued that Pavlyuchenkov failed to meet conditions for his deal with authorities.
"He didn't name the person who ordered the crime and didn't reveal his role in the crime," Stavitskaya said.
Pavlyuchenkov has reportedly claimed hearing that self-exiled tycoon Boris Berezovsky and Chechen separatist leader Akhmed Zakayev were behind the murder, allegations that echoed earlier statements made by Russian officials. Both men have denied the accusations in the past.
Stavitskaya and Politkovskaya's children have scoffed at the claims, pointing out that Berezovsky and Zakayev were convenient scapegoats for the government.
"This is a politically motivated version of who ordered the crime," Stavitskaya said Tuesday.
Pavlyuchenkov's lawyer, Karen Nersesyan, said the failure to track down a person who ordered the crime couldn't be blamed on his client, who was just one man in a long chain of command without any precise information about the mastermind.
"Without the help of bodies outside of Russia — specifically, agencies in other countries — I doubt that we will find anything out about the person who ordered this crime," Nersesyan said.
Politkovskaya was killed on the birthday of Vladimir Putin, who was serving his second presidential term at the time. The timing helped fuel speculations about the possible involvement of Russian authorities angered by Politkovskaya's reports of atrocities in Chechnya.