Tuesday, 20 January 2009

Anna Politkovskaya's lawyer Stanislav Markelov shot dead in Moscow

by Philippe Naughton, Times Online

A campaigning Russian lawyer was shot dead in central Moscow today after giving a press conference to draw attention to the early release of an army colonel convicted of the murder of a young woman during the war in Chechnya.

Officials said that Stanislav Markelov, who also represented the slain journalist Anna Politkovskaya, was shot dead in the street by an unknown gunman moments after speaking out about the case of Yuri Budanov.

A young female journalist accompanying Mr Markelov later died in hospital after being seriously injured when she tried to intervene.

Anastasia Barburova was reported to be working freelance for Novaya Gazeta, the opposition newspaper which also employed Politkovskaya.

Budadov was sentenced to 10 years in jail in 2003 for the murder of 18-year-old Kheda Kungayeva, a Chechen woman snatched from her home in March 2000 and taken to the colonel's office. There she was allegedly raped before Budanov, who accused her of being a rebel sniper, strangled her.

The case caused widespread revulsion and Budanov became the first senior Russian officer convicted of human rights abuses during the Chechen campaign. He was released from jail four days ago.

Before his death today, Mr Markelov, who represented Kungayeva's family, told reporters that he planned to challenge the release, which has prompted street protests in Chechnya attended by both human rights activists and representatives of the region's pro-Moscow authorities.

Anatoly Bagmet, chief investigator at the Moscow prosecutor's office, said that the motive for today's shooting had not yet been established. “The investigation is studying various theories on the killing of Stanislav Markelov, including a link to his professional activities as a lawyer,” he said.

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