New York, April 29, 2011—The Committee to Protect Journalists welcomes the guilty verdict in the 2009 murder of Anastasiya Baburova, freelance reporter with the independent newspaper Novaya Gazeta, who was shot and killed in Moscow along with human rights lawyer Stanislav Markelov. Markelov had represented Novaya Gazeta journalists in various legal cases.
On Thursday, a jury at the Moscow City Court declared two radical nationalists–Nikita Tikhonov and his common-law wife, Yevgeniya Khasis–guilty in the double murder, local and international press reported. Russian investigators arrested the two in November 2009. Tikhonov was declared guilty of executing Baburova and Markelov as well as of the illegal appropriation and possession of firearms and the forgery of personal identity documents. Khasis was declared an accomplice in the murder and found guilty of illegally possessing firearms.
The conviction and sentences for the defendants will be announced on May 5, Novaya Gazeta reported. According to press reports, Tikhonov faces a life sentence while Khasis may be imprisoned for up to 20 years. Both have pleaded not guilty in the murder and admitted their responsibility for the other charges. Their lawyers said they would appeal the Thursday verdict, local press reported.
“We are satisfied with this verdict,” Sergei Sokolov, deputy editor of Novaya Gazeta, told CPJ. But Sokolov told CPJ that he hopes that additional accomplices would be brought to justice as well.
“We are heartened by this significant progress in ending the impunity in the murder of our colleague Anastasiya Baburova and human rights lawyer Stanislav Markelov and commend the Investigative Committee for their solid work on the case thus far,” CPJ Europe and Central Asia Program Coordinator Nina Ognianova said. “We now call on investigators to build on this step forward and exhaust all leads and bring all perpetrators to justice.”
A masked man shot and killed Baburova, 25, and Markelov, 34, in downtown Moscow on January 19, 2009, after they left a press conference at the Independent Press Center. Sokolov told CPJ that Markelov’s legal work in the criminal prosecution of Russian nationalists and neo-Nazis was declared the motive for his killing. Baburova, authorities said, was murdered when she tried to stop the gunman after he shot Markelov.