Khlebnikov trial starts over with new judge and jury
The trial of two men charged with killing Forbes editor Paul Khlebnikov started over on Wednesday under a new judge, who rejected a defense request to open the proceedings to the public and media.
A spokesman for the family of Paul Khlebnikov, who was shot to death in the street outside his Moscow office in July 2004, said presiding Judge Vladimir Usov had dismissed the jury, and that a new panel of 12 jurors and six alternates had been selected.
The trial was halted last month after the trial`s previous judge fell ill.
Two ethnic Chechens, Kazbek Dukuzov and Musa Vakhayev, are charged with killing Khlebnikov on behalf of Khozh-Akhmed Nukhayev, a Chechen separatist figure who was the subject of a critical book by the victim, "Conversations with a Barbarian," and remains at large.
Khlebnikov family spokesman Alexei Brevnov said the judge rejected a defense request to open the trial, ruling that the decision to hold it behind closed doors was not subject to review because it was made in preliminary hearings under the previous judge -- not during the phase of the trial that is being repeated.
The trial`s closure has sparked criticism and deepened speculation about the strength of the prosecution`s case.
Court officials said last year that the trial would be closed because some of the case materials were classified. But Russian news agencies cited defense lawyers as saying there was no reason to fully close the trial because prosecutors had not called for the classified materials to be examined as evidence.
Some critics of Russia`s justice system have said that prosecutors failed to properly pursue other lines of investigation in the case. Observers have suggested that Khlebnikov may have made powerful enemies because he investigated corruption and sought to shed light on the closed world of Russian business.
The U.S. government and Khlebnikov`s family, whose roots are in Russia, have urged prosecutors to thoroughly investigate all angles and stressed the importance of bringing those behind the killing to justice -- not just those who carried it out. The United States also has pressed Russian authorities to open the court proceedings to ensure transparency.
Dukuzov and Vakhayev pleaded not guilty after the January opening of the Moscow City Court trial.
A third defendant, Fail Sadretdinov, is being tried alongside the two Chechens for a separate crime, the alleged attempted murder of a Moscow businessman, Brevnov said. Sadretdinov is not charged in Khlebnikov`s killing.