The killer of Russian human rights activist Natalya Estemirova is alive and will shortly be prosecuted, the country’s top criminal investigator has said.
“We know the perpetrator. We know his name. We are sure of his guilt,” Alexander Bastrykin told a delegation from the Committee to Protect Journalists.
He also ordered a review of all cases concerning attacks on journalists after meeting the group.
Estemirova worked in the Chechen office of the Memorial human rights watchdog, a grantee of the National Endowment for Democracy. She was abducted in Grozny in July 2009 and found shot dead several hours later in Ingushetia.
Bastrykin said the suspect had probably been hired to kill Estemirova but refused to speculate on the identity of the individual concerned. Memorial’s Oleg Orlov has publicly blamed Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov for commissioning the murder.
“I would, of course, like to hope that Bastrykin’s words reflect a real advancement in the case. I know such advancement is possible, but it takes political will,” said Memorial co-head Alexander Cherkasov.
“On the face of it, Bastrykin’s statement is good news but it will not satisfy human rights activists until the promised arrest takes place and a trial is held at which the suspect is demonstrated to be Estemirova’s killer,” said Reporters Without Borders.
“We have not forgotten that the investigation into Novaya Gazeta reporter Anna Politkovskaya’s murder and the trial of her alleged killers were a complete fiasco, one that showed that there is no political will in present-day Russia to solve the murders of journalists and human rights activists,” said the media monitoring group.