A Russian court on Thursday handed down not guilty verdicts on all three men accused of helping murder Anna Politkovskaya, a Kremlin critic and investigative journalist.
The jury said it found that Chechen brothers Dzhabrail and Ibragim Makhmudov were not guilty of acting as accomplices in the murder and former police officer Sergei Khadzhikurbanov was not guilty of organising the crime, said a Reuters reporter in the courtroom.
Also acquitted was Pavel Ryaguzov, a former agent of the FSB security service who was not directly accused of being part of the murder but of extortion in another aspect of the case.
The verdicts are an embarrassing defeat for prosecutors in a trial compromised from the start by the absence of the suspected gunman and any alleged mastermind.
Politkovskaya, who was 48 when she was killed, focussed on abuses committed by Russian forces during the second Chechen war, which took place during Putin's presidency.
Her killing underscored the risks run by journalists and government critics in Russia.
The Politkovskaya family and rights activists have criticised the trial as flawed, as none of the four accused had been charged with pulling the trigger or being the mastermind of the 2006 killing.
ReutersLast Mod: 19 Şubat 2009, 17:00