Suspect in killing of journalist held

A SUSPECT in the killing of investigative journalist Anna Politkovskaya five years ago has been detained by Russian investigators.

Rustam Makhmudov is accused of shooting Ms Politkovskaya in Moscow in 2006. He was taken into custody in his native Chechnya in southern Russia, federal investigators said yesterday.

The killing of Ms Politkovskaya, who investigated human rights abuses in Chechnya and high-level corruption across Russia, deepened concerns about justice in then-president Vladimir Putin's Russia and spotlighted the risks run by government critics.

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Makhmudov was flown to Moscow for questioning, Russian news agencies reported.

His detention brings a new twist in a case that has brought little satisfaction for state prosecutors or for relatives of Ms Politkovskaya, one of at least a dozen Russian journalists whose murders have gone unsolved.

Two of Makhmudov's brothers, Dzhabrail and Ibragim, were acquitted in 2009 along with a third man tried for Ms Politkovskaya's murder, but the Supreme Court threw out the decision and sent the case back to prosecutors.

Rustam Makhmudov avoided capture and had remained at large.

Russian authorities had repeatedly said he had fled to Europe, and investigators said his capture had been aided by information from authorities in Belgium, where they claimed he had "been hiding earlier".

Murad Musayev, a lawyer who represents Makhmudov's brother Dzhabrail, said he believed Makhmudov had been living in Chechnya for at least two years.

Prosecutors said Makhmudov followed Ms Politkovskaya into her Moscow apartment block as she returned home and shot her. His brothers were charged as his accomplices.

Their acquittal embarrassed prosecutors after a trial which was undermined by the absence of the suspected gunman and by uncertainty about who was behind what was widely believed to have been a contract killing.