Abdulmalik Akhmedilov

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At least one assailant shot Akhmedilov, 32, in his car on the outskirts of the Dagestani capital, Makhachkala, at around 1 p.m. The editor died at the scene, the independent Caucasus news Web site Kavkazsky Uzel reported.

Akhmedilov, known as Malik, was deputy editor of the Makhachkala-based daily Hakikat (The Truth) and a chief editor of the political monthly Sogratl, named after his native village. Both are published in Avar, the language of the largest ethnic group in the volatile, multiethnic southern republic of Dagestan.

Zulfiya Gadzhiyeva, a Hakikat colleague, told CPJ that the editor sharply criticized federal and local officials for suppressing religious and political dissent under the guise of an “anti-extremism” campaign. In Sogratl, Akhmedilov called on regional authorities to investigate the 2008 police killing of a Sogratl resident whom law enforcement agents said was a guerrilla fighter. The journalist was also known for his investigative reporting into the recent assassinations of Dagestani officials, the Russian service of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reported.

Gadzhiyeva, who visited the crime scene and met with Akhmedilov’s wife and neighbors, said witnesses saw at least one killer in a parked Lada sedan with tinted windows and no license plates in the editor’s neighborhood. When the journalist left in his car for an errand, the Lada followed and at least one gunman fired, she told CPJ.

Akhmedilov’s neighbors said they had seen the same Lada parked in the neighborhood for at least two days prior to the killing, Gadzhiyeva told CPJ. Akhmedilov did not report receiving any threats, she said.

The Dagestan Investigative Committee, the region’s top investigative office, opened a probe into the murder, the agency reported on its Web site. News reports said investigators initially focused on the journalist’s private life rather than his journalism.

On May 30, 2016, a district court in Makhachkala sentenced two local men, Murad Shuaibov and Isa Abdurakhmanov, to 10 years and six months and 8 years in jail, respectively, in connection to Akhmedilov’s murder, Kavkazsky Uzel reported. According to Kavkazsky Uzel, the court found that Shuaibov shot the journalist because Akhmedilov distributed leaflets in which he said that Shuaibov was a follower of Wahhabism. The court found that Abdurakhmanov was an accomplice, for driving the getaway car. According to news reports, both men protested the accusations, declared that investigators failed to provide substantial evidence, and refused to testify. No mastermind was identified or brought to justice.

Ali Kamalov, head of the Dagestan branch of Russian Union of Journalists, told Kavkazsky Uzel that investigators know who ordered Akhmedilov’s murder but are afraid of bringing them to justice.

According to Kavkazsky Uzel, authorities detained both men in early 2013, and their trial began in December of that year. In March 2015 a local court convicted and sentenced them in connection to Akhmedilov’s murder, but four months later, Dagestan’s Supreme Court overturned the verdict on appeal based on procedural violations in the trial, reports said. The second trial, which ended with May 30 convictions, started in September 2015, Kavkazsky Uzel reported.