Russia arrests Chechen in Politkovskaya probe-reports

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MOSCOW, Sep 15 (Reuters) Russian police investigating the murder of journalist Anna Politkovskaya have detained a former government official from the Chechnya region, Russian media reported today.

Shamil Burayev, former head of the administration of the Achkhoi-Martan region in Chechnya, was detained while driving his car in Moscow on September. 13, Komsomolskaya Pravda newspaper said, quoting his wife and unnamed sources.

The tabloid daily reported his arrest for the ''organisation of a murder'' had been sanctioned by Moscow's Basmanny court.

Burayev was a former candidate for Chechnya's presidency and was head of the Achkhoi-Martan region from 1995 until his sacking by the region's then-president, Akhmad Kadyrov, in 2003, Komsomolskaya Pravda said.

Law enforcement officials did not comment on the case.

''We don't yet have any reliable information as to whether he is under arrest or not, but they told us he could be freed in a short while,'' Interfax news agency quoted an unnamed relative of Burayev as saying.

Politkovskaya, an outspoken credit of Russian President Vladimir Putin, was shot dead in her apartment building last October. Her murder provoked international condemnation and critics accused Moscow of failing to protect freedom of speech.

Prosecutors have said Politkovskaya's murder was probably linked to her reporting. She had been active in exposing abuses by security forces in Chechnya and neighbouring Russian regions.

On September. 4, Russia's Prosecutor-General's office said it had drafted in extra investigators to work on the case and appointed a new prosecutor. A week earlier, prosecutors had said they had solved the case and arrested 11 people.

Prosecutor-General Yuri Chaika said at the time Politkovskaya was killed by an organised crime group that included serving and former law enforcement officers.

REUTERS GT PM1810

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