Klebnikov Investigation Frozen, Again

Different people may hold different opinions about Russia’s administration of law and justice.  Given that we are involved in a case featuring a political prisoner undergoing a second show trial, obviously we hold a strongly critical opinion of Russian law enforcement.  But there are many other cases that lead us to believe that this experience is not isolated.

Take the case of the murdered Forbes journalist Paul Klebnikov, whose muckraking and uncompromising journalism took a much harder look at the oligarchs and private sector business compared to his relative light touch in writing about the government.  Yet despite the stark differences with, say, Anna Politkovskaya, it is the Kremlin’s procuracy which has somehow failed to deliver justice in the case a full five years after the murder.  Next week, July 9th, will mark the fifth anniversary of this tragic event, and today Reuters is reporting on a leaked legal document from the Russian authorities which has halted the investigation.  Ever since the 2006 acquittal of two suspects, the family has essentially been kept in the dark by the authorities, and were not informed about new evidence or progress of the investigation.

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As described by journalist and author Steve LeVine in his recent book,Klebnikov’s death could have been prevented.  He was shot four times bygunmen from a slow moving car outside his Moscow office.  Bystandersimmediately called for help.  The ambulence took a full hour to arriveto the crime scene, and once they began to treat him, they had nooxygen bottle or other critical medical supplies.  Against the odds,Klebnikov was still alive by the time they arrived to the hospital, butthen was stranded between floors when an elevator malfunctioned. Stranded there, the journalist spent his last moments.  From LeVine’sdescription, there were more individuals guilty in this death than justthe gunmen.

The Klebnikov family deserves justice in this case, yet the authoritiesseem reluctant to even keep them informed.  It is a sad reality toobserve that Russia’s police investigations, prosecutions, and courtprocesses only seem to work efficiently in the pursuit of inventedcrimes against political opponents, while remaining completely ineptand incapable of solving real crimes.  Until this government stopstreating the murders and beatings of journalists as tolerable misdeameanors akin to jaywalking, it will be impossible to disassociate the state from the crimes themselves.

We hope that presidents Obama and Medvedev will find time to discuss this case and others deserving of attention.

Photo from Klebnikov’s youth, growing up in New York (Credit: Klebnikov Family).  See a full gallery www.cbs.com.

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