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Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya is seen in Moscow in this 2001 photo. Politkovskaya was shot dead at her Moscow apartment building in October 2006. ((AP Photo/ITAR-TASS))

A Russian military court ruled Monday not to ban journalists from the trial of three men accused of involvement in the slaying of investigative journalist Anna Politkovskaya.

Politkovskaya's colleagues and the three defendants all had spoken in favour of an open trial.

Politkovskaya was killed outside her Moscow apartment building in 2006. She was best known for her reports on human rights abuses in the rebellious, but still Russian-controlled, oil-rich region of Chechnya.

The man accused of shooting Politkovskaya, Rustam Makhmudov, has fled the country, prosecutors say.

The suspects being tried on murder charges are Sergei Khadzhikurbanov — a former police officer with Moscow's anti-organized crime unit — and Makhmudov's brothers Ibragim and Dzhabrail.

They are being tried together with Pavel Ryaguzov, a former Federal Security Service officer accused of criminal links with Khadzhikurbanov.

The chief investigator in the case has said prosecutors believe Khadzhikurbanov organized details of the killing, and that one Makhmudov brother followed her and fed information on her movements to the other, who was near the site of the killing and passed the details along to the shooter.

Scathing criticism from family

All three insisted to reporters Monday that they were not guilty.

Lawyers for Politkovskaya's family were scathing Monday in their criticism of the official investigation, which they said was sabotaged to allow the suspected triggerman and the as-yet-unidentified mastermind to escape justice.

"Our aim is for the investigation to identify the mastermind, the financier and all the other accomplices in the murder," said Karinna Moskalenko, who is representing Politkovskaya's son Ilya and daughter Vera.

"Until then, we do not consider the investigation over," she said.

The 12-member jury will be selected behind closed doors Tuesday, when a date for the trial itself could be announced.

The defence lawyers said Monday the investigation had been deliberately undermined, but expressed surprise at Judge Yevgeny Zubov's decision to allow the open trial.

Prosecutors had requested a closed trial because they say some of the potential evidence is classified.

Sensitive information

The case is being heard in a military court because a fourth defendant, Pavel Ryaguzov, is a Federal Security Service officer.

He is accused of criminal links with Khadzhikurbanov, the former police officer, but he has not been charged in Politkovskaya's killing.

Most military court hearings are held behind closed doors because they are considered to involve sensitive security information.  

Politkovskaya was one of at least 13 journalists killed in contract-style slayings during Vladimir Putin's eight-year presidency. Few suspects have been prosecuted.

The trial was delayed in October when Politkovskaya's lawyer, Moskalenko, became ill, and alleged she and her family had been poisoned.

She said the alleged poisoning made her too ill to attend what was then to be the opening day of the trial.

Human rights and media groups described the incident as an apparent attempt to intimidate Moskalenko, who has represented other Kremlin foes, including chess champion Garry Kasparov.

With files from the Associated Press