Russian neo-Nazi gets life sentence for murdering lawyer and journalist

We have followed the growing Russian fascist movement and its terror attacks for the last few years. Previously we commented on and posted a video featuring murdered Russian human rights lawyer and antifascist Stanislav Markelov and antifascist journalist Anastasiya Baburova. Below is a Guardian UK report on the recent conviction of the accused assassin. – C. Alexander
Conviction hailed as rare victory for justice by activists who say long sentences have brought down number of racist attacks
By, Tom Parfitt in Moscow for the Guardian UK: article
Human rights activists in Russia have hailed a rare victory for justice after a court in Moscow sentenced an extreme nationalist to life in prison for killing a prominent lawyer and a young journalist.
Nikita Tikhonov was jailed for shooting dead lawyer Stanislav Markelov, 34, and Anastasiya Baburova, 25, a trainee reporter at the Novaya Gazeta newspaper, in January 2009 on a side street in the Kropotkinskaya district of central Moscow.
Tikhonov’s girlfriend, Yevgeniya Khasis, was also tried and sentenced to 18 years in a penal colony for helping co-ordinate the attack by mobile phone.
A jury at Moscow’s city court found the pair guilty late last month after hearing they had targeted Markelov because of his work on prosecutions of neo-Nazis. At the time of his death the lawyer and Baburova were walking to a metro station after a press conference.
Tikhonov shot Markelov in the back of the head with a pistol from close range and then shot Baburova when she tried to grab his arm.
In contrast to the disputed trials surrounding other high profile murders such as those of journalists Paul Klebnikov in 2004 and Anna Politkovskaya in 2006, family and colleagues of the victims said they were satisfied with the outcome.
“The court process was honest, fair and carried out with dignity,” said Baburova’s mother, Larisa. “We are certain they were the killers; we have no doubt. They executed a terrible crime and must answer for their actions.”
Sergei Sokolov, the editor in chief of Novaya Gazeta, told the Ekho Moskvy radio station the investigation had been “impeccable”. He praised the judge in the case for putting the Tikhonov and Khasis – who “posed a real danger to society” – behind bars for a lengthy sentence.
Alexander Cherkasov, an activist with the Memorial rights group, said he and others had “studied the whole process very thoroughly, evaluated the evidence very critically, and come to the conclusion that the defendants on the bench were exactly the people who should be punished for the murders”.
According to witnesses in the courtroom the killers laughed and smiled as the sentence was read. Tikhonov had initially confessed but both later claimed they were not responsible for the deaths.
During a trial lasting three and a half months, the jurors heard that Tikhonov, 31, and Khasis, 26, were involved with an ultra-right group called Russky Obraz. Tikhonov had a motive to seek revenge on Markelov because the lawyer represented the family of a 19-year-old antifascist activist who was murdered in 2006. A search warrant was issued for Tikhonov in connection with that killing and although he was not captured, three accomplices to the crime received heavy prison sentences as a result of Markelov’s efforts.
Tikhonov and Khasis fell under police suspicion in autumn 2009 and officers bugged their apartment, recording the pair discussing the murder. They were arrested in November that year. Three pistols and a Kalashnikov were found in the apartment. One of the pistols, a 1910 Browning, matched bullets found at the murder scene.
Neo-Nazis have already written posts on online forums threatening the judge in the trial. However Natalya Yudina of Sova Centre, a group that tracks nationalist aggression, expressed hope the outcome would act as a deterrent.
“In the last year there has been an increase in guilty verdicts for neo-Nazi hate crimes and we’ve seen a corresponding drop in the number of violent racist attacks,” she said.
“Long sentences undoubtedly have an effect, and today’s court decision is one more step in the right direction.”
Tikhonov and Khasis’s lawyers have said they will appeal. © Guardian News and Media Limited 2011

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