Russian police arrest top suspect in Politkovskaya case
May 31, 2011, 12:08 GMT
Moscow - Russian police on Tuesday detained the top suspect in the 2006 murder of Anna Politkovskaya, a reporter critical of the Kremlin and its harsh campaign against insurgents in the Caucasus region.
A police team detained suspect Rustam Makhmudov in a morning raid in the Caucausian province of Chechnya.
A 'powerful group' of police and soldiers surrounded a house in Chechnya's western Achkha-Martanovsky region to capture Makhmudov 'at a time when chances were highest to take him alive,' Interfax reported, citing a federal forces officer.
Russian investigators reportedly tracked Makhmudov down in the remote village where he was born. They made the arrest with the help of phone taps and tips from local sources. He did not resist arrest, police said.
Belgian police assisted in the manhunt by providing information on Makhmudov who, until a recent return to Russia, had been hiding as a fugitive in Brussels, said Vladimir Markin, director of Russia's National Investigative Committee.
Markin said he traveled to Brussels personally to discuss Makhmudov's presence with local authorities, after which Makhmudov, under pressure from Belgian police, returned to Russian territory.
A government aircraft transported Makhmudov to Moscow after Tuesday's arrest. He was being interrogated on Tuesday afternoon, Markin said at a Moscow press conference.
Politkovskaya was gunned down next to her apartment building in an apparent contract killing on October 7, 2006. She had been a senior journalist and war reporter for Novaya Gazeta, one of Russia's few independent newspapers.
Police later suggested Poltikovskya'a articles detailing human rights violations, including robbery and murder by federal troops and local officials in Chechnya, were a probable reason for her murder, and identified Makhmudov as the likely trigger man.
Russian media has long reported that police believed Makhmudov was the leader of a group of ethnic Chechens living in Moscow who cooperated with corrupt police in the city to find Politikovskaya and kill her.
Police have not made public the identity of the person or persons thought to be responsible for allegedly paying Makhmudov and others to carry out a contract hit on Politikovskaya.
A Moscow court in 2009 tried and found innocent three alleged Makhmudov accomplices of complicity in Politkovskaya's murder, citing lack of evidence. Russia's supreme court later cancelled the ruling. The three - two of them Makhmudov's brothers - may still face charges.
International human rights protection groups have repeatedly questioned the Kremlin's commitment to bringing Politkovskaya's murders to justice.