New York, June 26, 2002—Six suspects accused in the October 1994 murder of Dmitry Kholodov, of the Moscow-based independent newspaper Moskovsky Komsomolets, were fully acquitted today by the Moscow Circuit Military Court. The six men were released from custody following the verdict.
The court ruled that the prosecution failed to prove the suspects’ guilt, according to Russian and international news reports.
The defendants included four former military officers—Pavel Popovskikh, Vladimir Morozov, Aleksandr Soroka, and Konstantin Mirzayants—as well as Aleksandr Kapuntsov, deputy head of a security firm, and businessman Konstantin Barkovsky.
The prosecution and the journalist’s parents plan to appeal the decision to the Military Collegium of the Russian Supreme Court.
“We are disappointed that nearly eight years after this horrific murder took place, justice has not been done,” said CPJ executive director Ann Cooper. “The inability to solve crimes against journalists in Russia effectively encourages a culture of impunity for those who target the press for its work.”
On October 17, 1994, Dmitry Kholodov, a 27-year-old investigative reporter for Moskovsky Komsomolets, was killed in his newspaper’s office when he opened a booby-trapped briefcase he had collected from a source at Moscow’s Kazansky railroad station.
Kholodov, who wrote extensively about corruption in the Russian military, had been told that the attaché case contained secret documents exposing corruption at the military’s highest levels.
The official murder investigation, which progressed at a sluggish pace, drew extensive criticism from Kholodov’s colleagues and the Russian public.
Five of the defendants were arrested in 1998, four years after the murder, and Konstantin Mirzayants was arrested in 1999.
The trial began in November 2000.