Russians guilty of killing rights lawyer, journalist

April 30, 2011 - 0:0

MOSCOW (The New York Times) -- A young Russian nationalist and his common-law wife were convicted Thursday in the particularly brazen murders of a prominent human rights lawyer and a journalist two years ago, as the jury sided with prosecutors who argued that the ideologically driven defendants considered their victims enemies of Russia.

The slain lawyer, Stanislav Markelov, 34, had worked to jail violent nationalists and had once pursued a murder case against the man convicted of both fatal shootings, which were carried out at close range in broad daylight on a busy Moscow street near the Kremlin.
The journalist, Anastasia Baburova, 25, was a freelancer who happened to be interviewing Mr. Markelov. Both had connections to the loose network of Russian groups opposed to the nationalist and neo-fascist groups that have proliferated here since the fall of the Soviet Union.
Members of the country’s beleaguered human rights community immediately praised the verdict as a rare victory for justice in a country where high-profile murders are rarely solved.
“Our long experience allows us to distinguish between cases fabricated by the secret services and law enforcement agencies and cases that these services and structures investigate conscientiously,” Oleg P. Orlov, the head of the rights group Memorial said in a statement. “Today we can confirm that the real killers and not someone arbitrarily accused were seated on the defendants’ bench.”
The nationalist, Nikita Tikhonov, 30, was found guilty of the fatal shootings, while his common-law wife, Yevgenia Khasis, 26, served as lookout. Both had denied any guilt, and both slashed their wrists this week in what appeared to be an attempt to delay the verdict.
Sentencing is expected next month, but their lawyers vowed to appeal.