Supreme Court examines complaints in Kholodov murder case

New York, March 10, 2005—The Military Collegium of Russia’s Supreme Court today opened hearings to examine complaints filed by the Prosecutor General’s Office and the parents of Dmitry Kholodov, a slain reporter for the Moscow-based independent newspaper Moskovsky Komsomolets, according to local press reports.

Kholodov was murdered in October 1994 after criticizing then Defense Minister Pavel Grachev. Two separate trials failed to lead to convictions for a group of suspects, and the statute of limitation in the case expired in October 2004.

The journalist’s parents, Yuri Kholodov and Zoya Kholodova, filed a complaint requesting that the court discipline officials for serious misconduct in the trials. The Kholodov family requested that two officials in the Moscow Military District Court be disciplined for allegedly falsifying transcripts in the trials, and that explosive experts be prosecuted for allegedly providing false testimony in the case.

At the trial, the prosecutors alleged that the defendants killed Kholodov on the orders of Grachev. The journalist’s family criticized the court system for failing to convict the men, the private Moscow radio station Ekho Moskvy reported.

“The court was biased against our brutally murdered son because of his critical articles,” Zoya Kholodova said today, the state news agency RIA-Novosti reported. Kholodov’s parents said they would appeal the case to the Strasbourg, France­based European Court for Human Rights if the Supreme Court failed to do justice in the case.

Analysts in Moscow were uncertain about why the Prosecutor General’s Office, which has a poor record of prosecuting murders of journalists, filed a request with the Supreme Court seeking to have a June 2004 acquittal in a lower court overturned and the case re-examined. The Supreme Court is expected to issue a ruling in both matters on Monday, March 14.

Dmitry Kholodov, 27, was killed at his office on October 17, 1994, when he opened a briefcase he received from a source. Kholodov wrote extensively about corruption in the Russian military and had been told that the briefcase contained secret documents exposing corruption in the military’s highest ranks.

The six defendants in Kholodov’s murder case were acquitted in two separate trials in June 2002 and June 2004. The defendants were former intelligence officers Pavel Popovskikh, Vladimir Morozov, Aleksandr Soroka, and Konstantin Mirzayants; the deputy head of a security firm, Aleksandr Kapuntsov; and businessman Konstantin Barkovsky.

This lawless climate continues today. Eleven journalists have been slain in contract-style murders in the last four years alone.