Media News

UPDATE 1-Russia halts Klebnikov murder probe - document

* Lawyers told investigation halted - document

* Family call on Obama to raise case at Kremlin summit

(Recasts to add comment from family)

MOSCOW, June 30 (Reuters) - The family of a murdered U.S. reporter on Tuesday called on President Barack Obama to press Russia to bring his killers to justice after detectives informed lawyers they had halted the investigation.

The 2004 murder of Paul Klebnikov, editor of the Russian edition of Forbes magazine, drew widespread condemnation and underlined the dangers faced by reporters in Russia.

But his killers -- and those who ordered the murder -- are still on the loose. Two men accused of the killing were acquitted by a jury at a 2006 trial.

Russian detectives this month told lawyers they had halted an investigation into the murder, according to a legal document obtained by Reuters.

The Klebnikov family called on Obama to raise the issue when he meets Kremlin chief Dmitry Medvedev and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin next week in Moscow.

“We want answers and we are calling on both presidents to make a public statement on this case and the fate of other reporters whose murders in Russia remain unsolved,” Klebnikov’s brother, Michael, told Reuters from New York.

“We are calling on President Obama to show his concern that this case be properly investigated, brought to trial and that justice finally be served,” he said.

“We are calling on President Medvedev to reaffirm Russia’s commitment to solve this murder despite five years of failure to bring this case to a successful conclusion.”

The United States has repeatedly pressed Russia to bring Klebnikov’s murderers to justice.


But the chief detective on the case said in a letter to lawyers representing Klebnikov’s family that the murder investigation had been halted.

“I inform you that on 28 May 2009, the preliminary investigation into case 18/346222-05 on the murder of P. Klebnikov ... has been halted,” the letter from Russia’s chief investigator, Petros Garibyan. said. A copy of the document, dated June 1, was seen by Reuters.

A spokesman for the Prosecutor-General’s main investigative unit declined comment. Garibyan declined comment.

A Russian legal source who refused to be identified because of the sensitivity of the case said the investigation had been resumed after new evidence, but a representative of the Klebnikov family said they had received no such notification.

Klebnikov, a U.S. citizen whose grandparents fled Russia during the 1917 Bolshevik revolution, reported on a world where Russian business, politics and organised crime overlapped.

He was shot as he left his office in central Moscow on July 9, 2004. He later died of his injuries in a lift which stalled at a Moscow hospital.

The trial of two Chechens -- Kazbek Dukuzov and Musa Vakhayev -- who prosecutors said had carried out Klebnikov’s murder collapsed in 2006 when a jury acquitted them. The two men always said they were innocent.

Russia ordered a retrial but it was halted in 2007 because Dukozov could not be tracked down. Prosecutors have released no details about who is suspected of ordering the killing. Russia is ranked as the world’s third most dangerous place for reporters by the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), which lists 50 journalists killed there since 1992. Only Iraq and Algeria had more. (Additional reporting by Aydar Buribayev, editing by Ralph Boulton)