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Moscow Court Gives Politkovskaya Shooter, Organizer Life Terms

The Moscow City Court sentenced two men to life in prison for the 2006 murder of investigative reporter Anna Politkovskaya, a critic of President Vladimir Putin who chronicled rights abuses in Chechnya.

Life sentences were given to Lom-Ali Gaitukayev and Rustam Makhmudov, who were convicted by a jury last month of organizing and carrying out the killing, respectively, Interfax reported, citing the court. Three others who were acquitted in 2009, including former policeman Sergei Khadzhikurbanov, were sentenced as accomplices, RIA Novosti reported.

Politkovskaya, who held dual Russian-U.S. citizenship, was shot in the head in her Moscow apartment building on Oct. 7, 2006, on Putin’s birthday. The U.S. government has urged Russia to find the real culprits, including the people who ordered the killing.

“There can be no justice until we know the names of those who actually ordered the killing and they are held to account,” Tanya Lokshina, a Human Rights Watch researcher in Russia, said by phone from Moscow. “The court ruling is disappointing. This isn’t only about identifying and pursuing the hit men.”

Khadzhikurbanov was sentenced to 20 years, while Ibragim and Dzhabrail Makhmudov, who are brothers of Rustam Makhmudov, were given terms of 12 and 14 years, RIA Novosti said.

Russia is still actively investigating who ordered the killing, Interfax reported, citing Investigative Committee spokesman Vladimir Markin. Defense lawyer Tatyana Okushko said the verdicts would be appealed, RIA Novosti reported.

Politkovskaya, a correspondent for the independent newspaper Novaya Gazeta, wrote about corruption under Putin and human rights violations by security forces in the mainly Muslim region of Chechnya.

Chechnya was the site of two wars between separatists and federal troops since the collapse of the Soviet Union. The region is controlled by Kremlin-backed leader Ramzan Kadyrov, who has said he would welcome the punishment of Politkovskaya’s killers.

Five reporters for Novaya Gazeta have been killed since Putin came to power in 2000.

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