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Politkovskaya assassination: After acquittal, judge tells investigators to start over

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MOSCOW – A Moscow judge on Friday upheld a jury's acquittal of three defendants accused of murdering Russian investigative journalist Anna Politkovskaya, leaving many in Russia's beleaguered human rights community aghast at what they are calling official obstruction of justice.

Judge Yevgeny Zubov ordered investigators to return to square one in the hunt for those who planned and carried out the October 2006 assassination of Ms. Politkovskaya, a sharp Kremlin critic who documented Russian human rights abuses in the rebel region of Chechnya.

"The criminal probe must return to the prosecutors' investigative committee with the aim of finding the individuals linked to the committing of this crime," Mr. Zubov said.

Few of Politkovskaya's friends and supporters are blaming the jury of 12, who on Thursday unanimously agreed that the prosecution had presented insufficient evidence to convict Chechen brothers Dzhabrail and Ibragim Makhmudov and former Moscow police officer Sergei Khadzhikurbanov of being accomplices in the contract-style murder. Instead, they blame Russian authorities for conducting a half-hearted, often inept investigation followed by a shoddy and error-plagued trial.

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