Moscow City Court on Tuesday approved a panel of jurors to review the case over the murder of Novaya Gazeta observer Anna Politkovskaya as presiding judge Pavel Melekhin turned down the defense's petition that the choice of jurors was biased.
The merit hearing is due to begin at 10:30, Moscow time, on Wednesday, July 24.
Earlier, the court made three unsuccessful attempts to select jurors. One of the attempts failed because of insufficient number of candidates.
The defendants' lawyers accused the presiding judge of bias and accusatory manner. Their recusal request was denied.
The defendants are Lom-Ali Gaitukayev, his nephews /brothers Rustam, Ibragim and Dzhabrail Makhmudov/ and Sergei Khadzhikurbanov. They are accused of murder and illegal turnover of weapons. Rustam Makhmudov is also accused of abduction in Moscow in 1996 and extortion.
Anna Politkovskaya was killed in the elevator of her apartment house in October, 2006.
The investigator said Gaitukayev had masterminded the crime. In 2006, he set up an organized group to which he recruited other defendants and police officer Dmitry Pavlyuchenkov. Gaitukayev was gang leader until he was detained for masterminding an assassination attempt on the life of businessman Gennady Korban. He was convicted and is now serving a sentence. In prison, he controlled actions by gang members by telephone; and in Moscow, the crime was masterminded by Sergei Khadzhikurbanov.
"The defendants carefully planned the journalist's murder; they purchased arms and coordinated their actions," Investigative Committee spokesman Vladimir Markin said earlier.
After receiving information from Pavlyuchenkov about the victim's address, the Makhmudov brothers took positions along the route she was taking on October 7, 2006. As Ibragim Makhmudov saw the victim in the driver's seat, he reported it to his brother Dzhabrail, and the latter passed this information to Rustam, who entered the house where Politkovskaya lived and prepared to ambush her. When the journalist entered the elevator, Rustam Makhmudov shot her several times. The weapon of murder was left at the scene. The defendants then fled.
The criminal case against Dmitry Pavlyuchenkov, who had signed a plea bargain agreement, was reviewed separately. Pavlyuchenkov was sentenced to 11 years in a maximum security penitentiary.