December 17, 2007 / 10:18 AM / in 10 years

Russia halts retrial over murdered U.S. reporter

MOSCOW (Reuters) - A Russian court on Monday halted the retrial of three men accused of the 2004 murder of U.S. journalist Paul Klebnikov, because one of the defendants was still at large, court officials and a defense lawyer said.

“The court decided to send Klebnikov’s murder case back to the prosecutors until (Kazbek) Dukuzov has been tracked down,” Anna Usachyova, spokeswoman for the Moscow City Court told journalists after a hearing held behind closed doors.

Usachyova declined to give any further detail about the retrial, from which reporters have been barred because some of the evidence had been classified as secret.

In May 2006, a jury acquitted two Chechen men, Kazbek Dukuzov and Musa Vakhayev, of murdering Klebnikov.

Prosecutors said the trial had been flawed and appealed for a retrial. But the retrial process was suspended in March because Dukuzov disappeared.

“Up to now, there has been no evidence that there was a real hunt for Dukuzov,” said Ruslan Koblev, a lawyer defending the third accused man, a Moscow notary.

Klebnikov, editor of the Russian edition of Forbes magazine, was shot dead near his Moscow office, stoking international concern about freedom of speech in Russia. Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya was killed last year.

Klebnikov’s family has repeatedly pressed Russia to bring his killers to justice, and the issue has been raised in conversations between President George W. Bush and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Writing by Dmitry Solovyov; Editing by Stephen Weeks

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