Human Rights Voices

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Russia, April 12, 2010

Top Russian judge Eduard Chuvashov ''assassinated in revenge attack''

Original source

Times Online (UK)

A senior Russian judge who presided over the high-profile trial of a gang of racist killers was assassinated in Moscow today. Eduard Chuvashov was shot in the stairwell of his central Moscow home as he was leaving for work. Police said that they suspected that he had been killed by ultranationalists in a revenge attack for his work at Moscow City Court.

Mr Chuvashov, 47, was hit three times in a contract-style killing and died at the scene from gunshot wounds to the head and chest, the Investigations Committee of the Russian Prosecutor-General's Office said in a statement.

The judge dealt with the trials of members of extremist organisations and had jailed nine members of a Russian fascist group, the White Wolves, in February for the murders of migrant workers from Central Asia.

The skinhead gang, mostly teenagers, were sentenced to between 6 and 23 years for their parts in stabbing and beating to death 11 people. Prosecutors said that the group, which had formed two years earlier on Adolf Hitler's birthday, had filmed their attacks on mobile phones and uploaded them to Slavic nationalist websites.

Mr Chuvashov also jailed three ultranationalists last week for racially-motivated murders, Anna Usacheva, a spokeswoman for the Moscow court, told Ekho Moskvy radio. Threats against him had been posted on several radical websites after both trials, said Galina Kozhevnikova, of the Sova Centre, a rights group that monitors racist crimes.

"They published his picture and extracts of audio tapes from court cases, profiling him as a danger to all Russians," she said. Sova said that 306 people were hurt and 60 killed in hate crimes in Russia last year.

Video from surveillance cameras in the building showed that the gunman was a man of Slavic appearance aged between 25 and 30, dressed in a black shirt and hat and blue jeans, a police source told Ria Novosti news agency.

The judge had been offered protection by the Federal Security Service (FSB) in relation to the threats but had refused to accept a bodyguard, Interfax news reported.

Mr Chuvashov had also worked on a case against a senior agent of the Federal Drug Control Service, Alexander Bulbov, who was accused of embezzling $3.2 million (£2.1 million) and released on bail in November after 25 months in pre-trial detention. At the time of his arrest Mr Bulbov was leading an inquiry into a major furniture business in Moscow called Three Whales, which was allegedly helped by senior FSB officers to avoid millions of dollars in import duties in return for kick-backs. The case resulted in the arrest of five FSB officers and prompted Viktor Cherkesov, then head of the drugs agency, to warn publicly in 2007 of an "internecine war" between different branches of the security services.

Mr Chuvashov had also been due to examine the case today of Vladimir Belashev, a former member of the Interior Ministry department in charge of fighting organised crime. Belashev was arrested in 1998 and jailed for 11 years for terrorism offences after being convicted of taking part in the bombing of two statues near Moscow.

The European Court in Strasbourg ordered Russia to pay him €10,000 (£8,840) in compensation in 2008 after he complained that he had been detained for five years before sentencing. The murder of the judge has prompted comparisons with the killings of Stanislav Markelov, the human rights lawyer, and Anastasia Baburova, a journalist with the opposition Novaya Gazeta newspaper, who were shot in broad daylight in a central Moscow street in January last year. Two members of an ultranationalist group were charged with the murders in November.

In November 2006 Anna Politkovskaya, a human rights journalist, was shot dead in the elevator of her Moscow apartment building.