Markelov-Baburova murder trial news

posted 21 Apr 2011, 08:25 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 21 Apr 2011, 09:18 ]
18 April 2011
Translation by Glasnost Defence Foundation

The Moscow City Court has continued hearings of the murder case of lawyer Stanislav Markelov and journalist Anastasia Baburova.

Nikita Tikhonov, the alleged killer, told the court on April 11 where he had obtained the murder weapon, a Browning. Previously, he had claimed it had been brought “by a friend”; now he identified the source as Ilya Goryachev, leader of the Russian Image organisation – one of the major witnesses for the prosecution who has not, however, attended the hearings because of hiding abroad for security reasons. According to Tikhonov, Goryachev gave him the pistol asking to mend it several months after Markelov and Baburova were killed. The accused stressed he does not believe Goryachev might be the killer, since “murder is against his principles,” the RIA Novosti news agency cited him as saying.

The court then proceeded to question Yevgenia Khasis, who is charged with complicity in the murder. She said Tikhonov had been compelled to trade in firearms because of poverty. Khasis admitted she had held the Browning “just once – and even that spoiled my manicure”. She pleaded not guilty and said Tikhonov had been “set up by the investigators”. Also, she confirmed witness Baranovsky’s statement that they had been together on the day of the crime buying vintage champagne for his birthday. Asked why she had kept silent about her alibi so long, Khasis said she was afraid of coming under pressure from the investigators.

During the April 12 hearing, Tikhonov said he would be ready to join a guerrilla unit in the event of an external threat to Russia – and that was particularly what he meant telling Khasis he might become “a militant”. Khasis herself declined to answer jurors’ questions.

Judge Aleksandr Zamashnyuk then read out Goryachev’s statement about his “having been pressured” by Tikhonov. As we have reported, during preliminary investigation Goryachev first said that the murder had been committed by Tikhonov and Khasis and then sent in a letter in which he refuted his prior testimony. Now he asked the court to consider that letter null and void, and confirmed his old testimony as true. The judge stressed the point that the refutation letter was dated August 27, 2010 and the latest statement January 11, 2011.

Goryachev is claiming Tikhonov made him go back on his prior testimony by citing “pressure from the FSB” as the pretext.

During the April 14 hearing, the investigators played a video recording of Goryachev’s interrogation during which he said Tikhonov and Khasis had threatened to kill him because of their differences as to nationalist tactics. “They said they’d have to liquidate me the way they’d done with Markelov and Baburova,” Goryachev said, adding that each of the accused had told him on separate occasions about their involvement in the killing. “They plotted and executed the crime together, with Khasis keeping a lookout and Tikhonov firing the shots,” the witness said. He referred to other acquaintances of the accused who, too, he said, “know for certain it was Tikhonov who killed Markelov,” reported.

Meanwhile, Tikhonov asked the court to disregard the testimony he had given in the presence of his first defence lawyer, Yevgeny Skripilev, because “that man talked me into self-incrimination by confessing to the murder” in exchange for Khasis’ release. Finding out the lawyer had deceived him, he refuted his own testimony, Tikhonov explained. The victims’ lawyer Roman Karpinsky, in his turn, noted that Tikhonov had confessed to the crime repeatedly, including in the presence of defence lawyer Zhuchkov, who is still representing Tikhonov’s interests in court. Moreover, in the course of investigation Tikhonov had more than once given written testimony adding details to his prior confessions, Karpinsky said, calling the court’s attention to the fact that none of the current defence lawyers has complained to the Chamber of Barristers about Skripilev’s allegedly “wrongful” behaviour. As a result, the court turned down the plea by Tikhonov’s lawyers to disregard the testimony he had given during preliminary investigation.

The hearings were interrupted by the jury foreman’s suddenly feeling unwell as the prosecutor was reading out the protocol of one of Tikhonov’s interrogations with details about his plotting and executing Markelov and Baburova’s murder. Judge Zamashnyuk asked everyone out, called an ambulance and declared the proceedings adjourned, reported.