March 3, 2010 / 5:21 PM / 10 years ago

Outcry as Russia releases officer who shot reporter

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Activists Wednesday condemned the release of a policeman who shot dead a prominent journalist in Russia’s volatile southern region of Ingushetia.

Senior police officer Ibragim Yevloyev was released on Tuesday after serving three months of a two year sentence for shooting dead Magomed Yevloyev, 37, editor of Ingushetia’s main opposition news website ingushetiyaru.org, in August 2008.

A U.S.-based media rights watchdog said the court had made a dangerous decision that could lead to more violence against reporters in Russia, which it ranks as one of the most dangerous places in the world for journalists.

“It is outrageous that the killer of Magomed Yevloyev has been freed,” Nina Ognianova from the Committee to Protect Journalists said in a statement.

The reporter, a prominent critic of former Ingush leader Murat Zyazikov, was killed by a pistol shot to the head after being detained at the region’s local airport.

His death sparked large protests, forcing the Kremlin to replace Zyazikov with Yunus-Bek Yevkurov.

Yevkurov has struggled to govern a region beset by an Islamist insurgency and almost died in a suicide bomb attack last year. Rights groups say Zyazikov still wields significant influence.

A Russian court found policeman Yevloyev, former chief bodyguard to Zyazikov’s interior minister, guilty of involuntary manslaughter last year, but Tuesday it released him on probation. The reporter and his killer are not related.

Kaloi Akhilgov, a spokesman for Ingush leader Yevkurov, condemned the release. “There are criminals in the ministries and the courts,” he said.

Magomed Khazbiyev, who took over Yevloyev’s site after his death, said locals were disheartened by the release. “They know there is absolutely nothing they can do,” he told Reuters.

Editing by Philippa Fletcher

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