Published on openDemocracy, by Mariana Torocheshnikova, 22 Jan 2009.
… When the news came out that Budanov was to be released from prison early, it was Stanislav Markelov who tried to prevent the release, filing a protest in court. But the release went ahead regardless. Markelov called a press conference on January 19, and told journalists about what he planned to do next. He was shot when he left the press centre. The killer shot him in the head at close range. Standing next to him at that moment was Anastasia Baburova, a young intern at the newspaper Novaya Gazeta. She tried to stop the attacker and received a head wound. Doctors fought for her life for several hours but she died. Stanislav was 34, and Anastasia 25.
People were quick to say the murder was politically motivated and accused the Russian authorities of failing to prevent attacks on lawyers, journalists and political figures. Lawyers have been murdered in the past in Russia, but all the best-known cases involved people with connections either to not the most honest kind of business, or to the criminal world. Stanislav Markelov belonged to neither category. His colleagues spoke of him as a man of principle, a strong and tough lawyer, and stressed that he always acted within the law …
… Exemplary punishment:
The profession of lawyer has lost a lot of its prestige in Russia over these last years. Lawyers say that one of the reasons for this is the state’s lack of respect for their profession. Criminal cases are opened against lawyers with principles and their offices are searched (all of the defence lawyers in the YUKOS case went through this). Now things have gone as far as murder.
The murder of those who stand out from the crowd has become the norm in Russia today. I can see only one explanation for the audacity with which Markelov and Baburova were murdered in broad daylight in the middle of Russia’s capital: it looks like a lesson to those who would dare to continue fighting for their rights and opposing injustice. It is a warning to them to keep their heads down and stay quiet. We can only hope that rather than intimidate, this will mobilise those among Russia’s lawyers who are involved in human rights activity. They include Karina Moskalenko (the Anna Politikovskaya case), Yury Shimdt (the Mikhail Khodorkovsky case), Yelena Liptser (the Platon Lebedev case), Anna Stavitskaya (the case of rehabilitating victims of Katyn massacre), Lyudmila Aivar (the Nord-Ost case), Yelena Lvova (the Vasily Aleksanyan case) and many of their colleagues.
(Mariana Torocheshnikova is a journalist of the Moscow office of Liberty Radio (Svoboda) specialising in human rights issues and judicial matters). (full text).