Politkovskaya killer know to police-investigator

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MOSCOW, Oct 8 (Reuters) The killer of dissident reporter Anna Politkovskaya is known to Russian authorities but has not yet been charged, the chief investigator on the case said in an interview published today in her former newspaper.

Politkovskaya, an outspoken critic of President Vladimir Putin's human rights record, was shot dead on Oct 7 last year, sparking a storm of international condemnation and heightening concerns about freedom of speech.

Russia's Prosecutor-General Yuri Chaika said in August ''serious progress'' had been made towards solving the case, with charges now brought against 11 people.

But lead investigator Petros Garibyan said the man who pulled the trigger was not one of them.

''We have so far not charged the killer but we know who he is,'' Garibyan told Novaya Gazeta in an interview. Gabriyan did not say if the person was in custody, or why he had not yet been charged.

His comments are likely to strengthen suspicions among Politkovskaya's family and colleagues that the case is not as close to being solved as Chaika had suggested.

They have accused the Prosecutor-General of rushing to trumpet a breakthrough to score political points. Since Chaika announced arrests in the case in August, two suspects have released for lack of evidence.

CHECHNYA Politkovskaya, a 48-year-old mother of two, risked her life to expose abuses by the security forces in Chechnya and surrounding regions.

Shea was shot on Putin's birthday. Her supporters have speculated the murder may have been linked to the security forces or official circles, though the Kremlin has denied this.

Novaya Gazeta published a fuzzy photograph which it said was taken from a security camera near Politkovskaya's home and showed the killer, in dark clothes and a hat, minutes before he killed the reporter.

Chaika has said the murder was ordered from abroad by people seeking to discredit Putin.

''As to those who ordered this, we have, how should I say it, interesting suppositions. I can say nothing more than that,'' Garibyan said in the interview. ''We are now purposefully working on the intermediaries and the organisers.'' Politkovskaya's supporters and rights activists staged events in Moscow and cities around the world yesterday to mark the first anniversary of her death.

US President George W Bush, European Union leaders and prominent journalists have raised the murder with Putin, pushing Moscow to solve the case.

Politkovskaya's murder was the highest profile killing of a reporter in Russia since the 2004 murder of Paul Klebnikov, a US citizen and editor of the Russian edition of Forbes magazine.

Reuters PD DS1526

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