Karinna Moskalenko: Who is guilty of the murder of Anna Politkovskaya?

posted 24 May 2014, 11:59 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 24 May 2014, 14:22 ]
21 May 2014

Source: HRO.org (info)
Karinna Moskalenko, lawyer: Theses of speech in court.

It has so happened that, acting as a lawyer on behalf of the victims in the case since 2006, I have not been able to take part in the pleadings in court. And it should be noted that the victims in this case always had their own very particular point of view. The victims have stated that they were unbiased and maintained their neutrality before the court until the very end.

That is why the lawyer Anna Stavitskaya, speaking before the jury last week on behalf of the victims, said that the central thesis of our position has been: ‘Anna was a person of principle, and you must take a decision based on principle’.

What does this mean? It means that we, the victims and their representatives in the case, do not need to secure a conviction of the defendants at any price, but only if the members of the jury, acting absolutely in good faith and on the basis of strict principles, come to the conclusion that it has been absolutely proven that the crime was committed by these particular persons.

Taking part in the oral arguments in 2009 in the hearing of the same case at Moscow district military court, I believed it necessary to remind the jury that Anna Politkovskaya, well-known for her struggle against impunity, would never have approved the conviction of people whose guilty had not been proven.

In this sense, the position of the victims is in principle different from that of the authorities. The authorities need at any price to secure a conviction in this case, no matter who it may be. But that has not been our goal. They need to close this question for ever, and thenceforth carry out no further investigations related to this case. Our goal is the exact opposite.

In fact, it might have seemed to an impartial observer of the case that the position of the victims has not been completely clear. But that is only for those who do not know. This is only in the terms of this particular ‘unclear’ trial, with its unclear goals and purposes (or more exactly, clear, but carefully hidden). And it is only because what we see very precisely in this trial are not the main issues, but only the subsidiary issues related to this contract killing.

The position taken by the victims in the case is, on the whole, and in the European Court in particular, extremely straightforward.

The authorities violated the right to life of Anna Politkovskaya, as a minimum, in so far as the positive (procedural) obligations of the State regarding the right to life, namely: the investigation was carried out very ineffectively, with unfounded delays, numerous serious violations, and without establishing all the significant circumstances of the crime, and most importantly, without actually intending to establish them.

As a result, one of the most high profile, and, I’ll allow myself to say this, awful crimes of our century – the political killing of the talented and honest journalist Anna Politkovskaya, who was opposed to the government – has remained unsolved.

But for the time being let’s leave our position in the European Court and return to the trial at Moscow City Court.

On 22 April 2014 we, representing the victims in the case, arrived to take part in the oral presentations… It so happened that the presentations were unexpectedly postponed to a time when, as it turned out, I was still recuperating from a serious operation. In other words, fate deprived me of the opportunity to address the members of the jury on this case. Thinking over the main issues of the case, I finally understood that the chief thing that I would have told the members of the jury was that Moscow City Court was considering the wrong case. Whatever happended, the interests of justice, which are in fact what is of interest to the victims of the case, cannot be achieved in this trial. 


This is why. The members of the jury, like all other participants in the trial, must remain, and of this they were reminded on numerous occasions, ‘within the framework of the charges brought’. But we are significantly less interested in the case ‘within the framework of the charges brought’, that is in the case as it has been passed to the court by the investigation.

Let me explain.

Everything that could in reality interest us in this trial is the solving of the crime and the ending of this many-year unconscionable impunity. The investigation, and after it the State's charges, did not achieve either the one or the other. The charges that the trial is based upon, as we remember, do not concern all the key questions of the case: who ordered the killing, who financed the killing and how those who took the lead role in carrying out this killing organized their work.

This is the situation: a certain person has thought up the idea of killing your colleague or spouse, your mother or your daughter. This someone was unhappy – and this motivation for the crime has been recognized by the investigation – with their critical publications. (Interesting, who could be unhappy with the publications of Anna Politkovskaya?..)

And here you are, imagine this person – or persons – so influential and even powerful that it was possible for them to hire a whole department of the secret police in order to monitor Anna’s activities for several months, and also to engage the management department of a well-known intelligence agency to discover her addresses and similiar other petty favours…And almost all these names are known, and almost all have escaped responsibility. With the rarest exception...

…At the trial we once more heard the evidence of Dmitry Pavliuchenkov: someone whom it is hard for a normal person to think of without shuddering. This is a former officer of an extremely special department of the ‘secret police’, who uses the special secret powers given to him to protect order in the country and our peaceful life. And these, the officers of this department, for a relatively modest payment – 100 dollars a day for each man (and woman) were engaged (professionally) in the preparations for Anna’s murder.

This is who should be questioned in detail about the circumstances of Anna’s murder, but…this wasn’t to happen: a complex procedural fate was to be the lot of the head of this secret department.

At first he, under the patronage of the official investigation, was the main witness for the prosecution. Subsequently, thanks to the extraordinary efforts by the victims and their representatives, he became a defendant. But as a result of this, his case was separated and considered by a ‘special procedure’ – and the side of the victims categorically protested against this – and it became possible for him to escape public questioning at the trial on the circumstances of Anna’s murder and a full judicial hearing of the case.

And now, in this trial for murder of other defendants he is again acting... as a witness. And this status not only protects him, but is a procedural trap cunningly set for the other participants in the trial by the investigation. As a defendant Pavliuchenkov had the right not to give evidence, but as a witness, if he did not wish to answer any difficult question or obvious contradiction in his testimony, he is able to cite Article 51 of the Constitution and…also refuse to answer questions. As the Gingerbread Man said: ‘...I’ve got away from grandma, and I got away from granddad…’.

Who allowed him to escape and why? First of all I suggest so that he didn’t say too much. And he is keeping quiet. And he is still alive. For the time being he is quiet, and for the time being he is alive. Let’s remember after all he gave his word in the ‘plea bargain’ to say who ordered the murder. He has not done this. But despite this, the ‘plea bargain’ has been upheld.

So what should interest us, representing the victims, in this trial?

The question of the role of the Makhmudov brothers – what corner of the street they stood on and why? And must I seriously consider this the main question in the case, take part in these ridiculous debates, while all the time the crime remains unsolved and uninvestigated? And the person or persons has not been established who took out a contract for this killing and was able to place this contract at such a high level?

So far as the defendants are concerned... Well, the question of their role in this case is, nonetheless, not without interest... They, the defendants, do have a certain knowledge of the case. They clearly were to a certain extent participants in this case.

But they keep silent. Possibly, in this way they are saving themselves and their lives. They have, it should be said, full right to do this in terms of criminal procedure. To this end they, and lawyers, have taken a certain position that may be convincing, or not very convincing or completely unconvincing. And this is their problem.

But our problem, our task – I repeat – is to solve the crime. And here the defendants – people who have crucially important information about the crime – are hiding it. I could conceive that this could be dangerous for them – to solve the crime. So let them take this information with them. But in that case it is possible to understand we are not very concerned about their fate. But at the same time we are not settling accounts with them. We do not blame them for their defensive position. Each has the right to defend themselves by all lawful means – including the right to keep silent.

But we are aware of the fact that thanks to their silence the justice system has not been able to solve this crime. It is not only the position of the defendants that has helped bring this about. Another contributory factor has been the lack of good faith on the part of the investigators in their work. About this we have spoken from the very first months of the investigation and have given our reasons for this in detail.

So what is really important in the current trial for the murder of Anna Politkovskaya?

This is what is important. The crime remains unsolved, whatever other outcome there may be. And even people we know took part in the crime remain at liberty. There are people who have not even been prosecuted. Not to speak of those who ordered the contract killing and remain unpunished. Surely the prosecutors understand this? And the Judge who is chairing the trial? They understand. But they act within the ‘framework of the charges brought’. And the court has turned into a farce. And thanks to the conduct of the participants in the trial, that we have patiently watched all these months, the judicial procedure is turning into a pathetic circus. Anna herself would certainly have felt sick at the sight of such a trial.

I do not know what the verdict will be. But in all this clowning among those who have suffered most are the members of the jury. Because  while they believe they have been taking part in the administration of justice, in hearing this case ‘within the framework of the charges brought’, in other words to the extent ‘permitted’ by the investigation, they have simply been fulfilling a role allotted to them. And there has been no justice.

And this means that killers will continue to cold-bloodedly and professionally murder the people of Russia: take out ‘contracts’ on them, monitor their activities using the very best specialists from the most elite departments of the most secret police and ... shoot them dead. After all, the individuals needed to directly carry out this dirty work can always be bought.

Especially if those who order the killing guarantee complete impunity. In any society there can always be found ‘professionals’, or people on the margins of society, who can be bought for sums of money to carry out crimes planned by other people. Yes, the issue of who specifically carried out the contract killings is of course also of no little importance in terms the understanding of a crime. But this is a long way from helping us to answer the question: who is really guilty of the murder of Anna Politkovskaya?

Source: Echo of Moscow