Preliminary hearing held in Klebnikov murder trial

New York, December 6, 2005—The Moscow City Court today held a preliminary hearing behind closed doors for three men accused in the July 2004 murder of Forbes Russia editor-in-chief Paul Klebnikov. The court ordered a jury trial to begin December 29, Moscow radio station Ekho Moskvy reported.

The Committee to Protect Journalists has urged prosecutors to reconsider a November decision to hold the trial in camera.

Lawyer Dmitri Shokhin, who recently led the high profile prosecution of oligarch Mikhail Khodorkovsky, will prosecute the case.

Kazbek Dukuzov and Musa Vakhayev are charged with killing Klebnikov, an American journalist of Russian descent. They are also charged with a series of other crimes, including contract killings, extortion, robbery, and membership of a criminal gang. The third accused, Fail Sadretdinov, is charged with leading the gang.

In June, the prosecutor accused Chechen separatist leader Khozh Akhmed Nukhayev of ordering the murder of Klebnikov, allegedly in retaliation for the journalist’s 2003 Russian-language book, Conversation with a Barbarian: Interviews with a Chechen Field Commander on Banditry and Islam. Russian authorities say they are seeking Nukhayev as well as two other purported members of the criminal gang, Magomed Dukuzov and Magomed Edilsultanov, in connection with the Klebnikov slaying and other crimes, according to local press reports.

Klebnikov, 41, was gunned down outside his Moscow office on July 9, 2004. From the beginning of the investigation, Russian authorities described Klebnikov’s case as a contract murder and said they believed he was killed because of his work. Klebnikov had written a number of books and articles that angered his subjects. Among other topics, he wrote about the shadowy world of Russia’s business tycoons.

Klebnikov is one of 12 journalist murdered in contract-style killings since Russian President Vladimir Putin took office in 2000. None of the murders has been solved, according to CPJ’s analysis. See the list of the slain journalists.