New York, May 6, 2011--The conviction and sentencing of two defendants in the 2009 double murder of freelance journalist Anastasiya Baburova and human rights lawyer Stanislav Markelov is a landmark victory in the fight against impunity in press killings in Russia, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.
Moscow City Court Judge Aleksandr Zamashnyuk gave defendant Nikita Tikhonov life in a strict-regime penal colony. Yevgeniya Khasis, Tikhonov's common-law wife, will serve an 18-year term in a regular-regime penal colony as an accomplice in the murder, local and international press reported. Tikhonov and Khasis denied involvement in the murder, and their lawyers filed an appeal, the BBC Russian service reported. When he announced the sentence, Zamashnyuk said the two committed the crime with other unidentified accomplices, the Moscow-based independent newspaper Novaya Gazeta reported.
Today's conviction and sentencing was a follow-up to the April 28 verdict by a Moscow City Court jury that declared Tikhonov and Khasis guilty. Both suspects were arrested in November 2009. Tikhonov was found guilty of executing Baburova and Markelov as well as of illegal appropriation and possession of firearms and forgery of personal identity documents. In addition to being an accomplice, Khasis was found guilty of illegally possessing firearms.
"We welcome the convictions of the two defendants in Anastasiya Baburova and Stanislav Markelov's murder as a much-needed victory in the fight against impunity in Russia," CPJ Europe and Central Asia Program Coordinator Nina Ognianova said. "We urge Russian authorities to continue their good work in this important case and bring all the perpetrators to justice."
Baburova, 25, freelanced for Novaya Gazeta; Markelov, 34, had represented Novaya Gazeta journalists in various legal cases. A masked man shot and killed Baburova and Markelov in downtown Moscow on January 19, 2009, after they left a press conference at the Independent Press Center. Sergei Sokolov, Novaya Gazeta's deputy editor, told CPJ that Markelov's legal work in the criminal prosecution of Russian nationalists and neo-Nazis was declared the motive for his killing. Baburova, authorities said, was murdered when she tried to stop the gunman after he shot Markelov.