TOP ANTI-RACISM JUDGE SHOT DEAD IN MOSCOW

TOP ANTI-RACISM JUDGE SHOT DEAD IN MOSCOW (Russia)

12/4/2010- A top judge from Moscow's city court who had tried high-profile racist murder cases was shot dead Monday as he left his apartment in the Russian capital, investigators said. "Unknown assailants shot the federal judge of the Moscow city court, Eduard Chuvashov, on the third-floor landing in the first entrance of building 24 on Strelbishchensky Street," the investigative committee said in a statement. "He died on the spot from gunshot wounds to the head and chest. The attackers fled the scene." Investigators were working at the crime scene and hunting for the man who pulled the trigger in the apparent contract-style killing, the committee said. The crime was likely to have been related to Chuvashov's work, it added. His court dealt with "difficult criminal cases", a spokeswoman for Moscow's court, Anna Usacheva, said on the Echo of Moscow radio. "To the court and colleagues... He was kindhearted, compassionate man and the highest of professionals," she said, mourning Chuvashov's death. The 47-year-old judge had presided over at least two cases of hate crimes perpetrated by ultra-nationalist groups last year and afterwards threats against him were posted on several radical websites, said Galina Kozhevnikova of the Sova Centre, a rights group that tracks racist crimes. "They published his picture and extracts of audio tapes from court cases, profiling him as a danger to all Russians," she told AFP. Just last week Chuvashov jailed three ultra-nationalists for a race-motivated murders, Usacheva said. In February he sentenced members of a skinhead group called the White Wolves to up to 23 years in jail for murders motivated by ethnic hatred. The nine young gang members were found guilty of the murders of six people, most of whom were migrant workers from Central Asia, knifed and clubbed to death. But Chuvashov had recently heard a number of other high-profile cases.

His courtroom was again in the media during a case against an agent of the federal drug control service, Alexander Bulbov, who was accused of embezzling 3.2 million dollars and released on bail in November 2009, RIA Novosti reported. Based on surveillance videos from the building, authorities have profiled the judge's killer as a young man of Slavic appearance, aged between 25 and 30, a police source was quoted by RIA Novosti as saying. The suspect wore jeans, a black shirt and black cap that hid his face, he said, adding early evidence indicates he was a professional hired gunman. "Chuvashov's neighbours heard the claps, which indicates a silencer was used," the source said. The gunman also seemed to act without frenzy, firing a "control" shot to ensure Chuvashov was dead, and stooping to collect the spent gun shells before fleeing the crime scene, the police source added. Chuvashov's killing comes just over a year after the murder by right-wing extremists of a top lawyer who was also active in the fight against racism. Two Russian nationalists were arrested and charged with the killing in January 2009 of human rights lawyer Stanislav Markelov and journalist Anastasia Baburova as they emerged from a news conference. Russia's FSB security services said the two had been part of an extreme nationalist group, which was amassing weapons and had committed a racist murder.

© AFP

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