Feb 19 (Reuters) - A Russian court acquitted on Thursday all three men accused of helping murder Kremlin critic Anna Politkovskaya.
The following are details about Politkovskaya, the trial, why she was killed and the wider significance of her killing.
Politkovskaya, who reported on human rights abuses, was shot dead outside her flat in Moscow on Oct. 7, 2006, after returning home from the supermarket.
The murder of Politkovskaya, a 48-year-old mother of two, provoked an outcry in the West and underlined concerns about the dangers to reporters working in Russia.
The murder was one of the highest profile killings during the eight-year rule of former President Vladimir Putin. Leaders in the United States and Europe raised concerns about the killing in discussions with Putin.
Born in New York to diplomat parents, Politkovskaya studied at Moscow State University before embarking on a career in journalism.
Politkovskaya was unusually strong in her public opposition to Putin, who ruled as Kremlin chief from 2000 to 2008. She was fearless in her reporting on Chechnya, the Russian special services and high level corruption.
Even colleagues were sometimes shocked by Politkovskaya’s courage in breaking taboos on public opposition to Putin, the secret services and Chechnya’s pro-Moscow leader, Ramzan Kadyrov, in reports she wrote for the Novaya Gazeta newspaper.
Politkovskaya made many enemies in Russia’s secret service after she said agents were deeply corrupt and routinely abducted people, especially in Chechnya and neighbouring regions. She received many threats during her career.
Russia is ranked as the world’s third most dangerous place for reporters by the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), which lists 49 journalists killed in Russia since 1992. Only Iraq and Algeria had more.
Journalists in Russia risk beatings and even death if they delve into the murky world where politics, business and organised crime overlap.
The Kremlin under both Putin and President Dmitry Medvedev have demanded convictions but those who ordered the killings are rarely arrested and some major trials have collapsed.
Paul Klebnikov, editor of the Russian version of Forbes, was gunned down in Moscow in July 2004. The trial of two Chechens who prosecutors said had carried out Klebnikov’s murder collapsed in 2007 when a jury acquitted them. His family have repeatedly called for justice to be done.
Fears about the safety of reporters were underlined this year when Stanislav Markelov, a human rights lawyer, and a young reporter for Novaya Gazeta were gunned down in central Moscow. The 25-year-old reporter, Anastasia Baburova, died in hospital.
Two Chechen brothers, Dzhabrail and Ibragim Makhmudov, were charged with tracking Politkovskaya, and former police officer Sergei Khadzhikurbanov was accused of providing technical help. All three say they are innocent.
Police say they suspect a third Makhmudov brother, Rustam, of firing the shots that killed Politkovskaya but they have been unable to track him down. The person who ordered the killing has been neither named nor detained.
Sergei Sokolov, a senior editor at Politkovskaya’s newspaper, told a court last year that Dzhabrail Makhmudov was working as an agent for the Federal Security Service (FSB).
Makhmudov denied the charge as did his lawyers. A FSB spokesman later declined to comment.