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The Moscow city court on Friday sentenced a former Russian policeman to 11 years in a prison camp for his role in the killing of anti-Kremlin journalist Anna Politkovskaya in 2006.
Dmitry Pavlyuchenkov, who was accused of tracking Politkovskaya so she could be assassinated and providing the murder weapon, had concluded a plea bargain with prosecutors and already confessed his guilt.
The verdict concluded a fast track process that lasted only three days and was criticised for shedding absolutely no light on the main question in the murder case - who masterminded the killing.
The lawyer for the Politkovskaya family Anna Stavitskaya said she would appeal the verdict for being too mild and said Pavlyuchenkov had violated the terms of his plea bargain by failing to name the mastermind.
“We are ready to agree only with the maximum term of punishment for Pavlyuchenkov,” she said, quoted by the Interfax news agency.
Pavlyuchenkov was also ordered to pay three million rubles ($98,000) to the Politkovskaya family.
In court, he personally asked forgiveness from the Politkovskaya family for his role in the killing.
“I want to express regret for those acts which by my fault or not took place. I regret that I was drawn into this,” he said in comments broadcast on state television.
“I want to ask them (the family) for human forgiveness, as much as that is possible. It's possible to say a lot but it will not make things easier for the Politkovskaya or my family,” Pavlyuchenkov said.
Pavlyuchenkov's lawyer Karen Nersisyan meanwhile said the defence would also appeal the verdict as the accused deserved only a suspended sentence under the plea bargain.
The 48-year-old Politkovskaya, known for her pieces criticising President Vladimir Putin's policies in the North Caucasus, was gunned down in her apartment building on October 7, 2006.
Investigators believe the murder gang was formed on the orders of Chechen criminal boss Lom-Ali Gaitukayev Ä but that he was in the pay of the ultimate mastermind of the murder, who has yet to be identified.
The spokesman of Russia's Investigative Committee Ä which has been criticised for the last half decade for failing to solve the crime Ävowed to bring the mastermind to justice.
“The investigation aims to go to the end of the chain - from the assassin to the mastermind,” said Vladimir Markin, adding the crime had been investigated “without pause” by a top investigator.
According to the investigation, Pavlyuchenkov’s role in the murder was to find out Politkovskaya’s location and identify her daily routine so the assassination could be carried out successfully.
He also obtained the pistol that was used to kill her. Investigators believed Gaitukayev paid Pavlyuchenkov $150 000 to pass on as a reward to the murder gang.
Investigators have also charged three Chechen brothers - Dzhabrail, Ibragim and Rustam Makhmudov - and Sergei Khadzhikurbanov, another former police officer, with carrying out the murder as a group.
According to the investigation, it was Rustam Makhmudov who pulled the trigger on Politkovskaya.
Dzhabrail and Ibragim Makhmudov and Khadzhikurbanov have already been tried and acquitted over the affair. The supreme court then halted a retrial, sending the case back for more investigation. - Sapa-AFP