Suspect held in Russian journalist's 2006 killing

Reuters News
Posted: May 31, 2011 4:31 PM
Suspect held in Russian journalist's 2006 killing

By Steve Gutterman

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russian authorities have detained a long elusive suspect in the killing of investigative journalist and Kremlin critic Anna Politkovskaya five years ago, investigators said on Tuesday.

Rustam Makhmudov, the man accused of fatally shooting Politkovskaya in Moscow in 2006, was detained in his native province of Chechnya in southern Russia, the federal Investigative Committee said.

The killing of Politkovskaya, who investigated rights abuses in Chechnya and high-level corruption across Russia, deepened concerns about justice in then-President Vladimir Putin's Russia and spotlighted the risks run by government critics.

Makhmudov was flown to Moscow for questioning, Russian news agencies citing a law enforcement source reported.

His detention brings a new twist in a case that has brought little satisfaction for state prosecutors or for relatives of Politkovskaya, one of at least a dozen Russian journalists whose politically charged murders have gone unsolved.

Two of Makhmudov's brothers, Dzhabrail and Ibragim, were acquitted in 2009 along with a third man tried for Politkovskaya's murder, but the Supreme Court threw out the decision and sent the case back to prosecutors.

Rustam Makhmudov avoided capture and had remained at large since before the trial, charged in absentia.

Russian authorities had repeatedly said he fled to Europe, and the Investigative Committee said his capture had been aided by information from authorities in Belgium, where it said he had "been hiding earlier."

Murad Musayev, a lawyer who represents Makhmudov's brother Dzhabrail, said he believed Makhmudov had been living at home in Chechnya for at least two years.

Prosecutors said Makhmudov followed Politkovskaya into her Moscow apartment building as she returned home from a grocery store and fatally shot her. His brothers were accused of helping set up the slaying.

The acquittals embarrassed prosecutors after a trial undermined by the absence of the suspected triggerman and by uncertainty about who was behind what was widely believed to have been a contract killing.

Former colleagues and relatives of Politkovsksya have said that justice will not be done until the person or people behind the killing are identified and prosecuted.

(Reporting by Steve Gutterman; editing by Mark Heinrich)