World Bulletin / News Desk
Five men accused of the shock murder of top Kremlin critic Boris Nemtsov in central Moscow faced the jury on Monday as their trial opened at a Russian military court.
Nemtsov, a former deputy prime minister and prominent opposition politician who openly criticised President Vladimir Putin, was gunned down late at night on February 27 last year as he walked home with his girlfriend across a bridge just yards from the Kremlin.
The suspects, all ethnic Chechens from Russia's volatile North Caucasus, pleaded not guilty as they stood in a glass cage, after being brought in to the packed courtroom under armed guard.
Nemtsov's killing was the highest-profile slaying of a Putin foe since the former KGB agent took the reins in 2000.
His family and friends insist the authorities have not uncovered the real masterminds of the alleged contract hit.
"The murder of Boris Nemtsov has not been solved," said lawyer Olga Mikhailova, who represents his family.
"The organiser... has not been found and has not been brought to justice."
The man prosecutors say was the shooter -- Zaur Dadayev -- was a commander in Chechnya's interior ministry troops and Nemtsov's supporters have pointed the finger at those around the Kremlin-loyal leader of the region Ramzan Kadyrov.
Nemtsov -- who had a running feud with Kadyrov -- was at the time of his killing probing Moscow's covert deployment of troops to Ukraine and his murder sent a chill through Russia's marginalised opposition.
Plot 'carefully prepared'
The full trial opened after months of stalling as investigators failed to detain Ruslan Mukhudinov, a low-ranking Chechen security official who they say paid the suspects some 15 million rubles ($240,000) to kill Nemtsov.
Jury trials are relatively unusual in Russia and are only used for very serious offences punishable by a life sentence.
Vadim Prokhorov, a lawyer for Nemtsov's family, said the judge wants to complete the trial "by the end of the year" but that it could last longer.
The five defendants -- Dadayev, Anzor Gubashev, Shadid Gubashev, Temirlan Eskerkhanov and Khamzat Bakhayev -- are accused of carefully plotting the killing and shadowing Nemtsov from September 2014.
All of the men insist they are innocent and say that any confessions they made were beaten out of them by Russian security officers.
One more suspect apparently blew himself up with a grenade as security agents tried to detain him.
Prosecutors say Nemtsov, who at the time of murder was serving as a regional lawmaker in Yaroslavl, a city north of Moscow, was followed on the night of the murder as he headed from a cafe on Red Square.
They say Dadayev shot at him six times, causing four fatal wounds, then jumped into a getaway car driven by Gubashev.
Putin claimed the murder was a "provocative" act aimed at discrediting the Kremlin and said he was personally taking control over the investigation.
The head of Russia's Investigative Committee said earlier this year that the case was "solved".
Nemtsov's family have however challenged investigators for not questioning Kadyrov -- who dismissed all claims of involvement and publicly praised the alleged gunman Dadayev -- and other high-ranking Chechen officials.
So far only Mukhudinov has been named as an organiser but officials say he has fled Russia, and Nemtsov's allies say no credible motive has been put forward.
Officials reportedly also tried to charge Mukhudinov's boss -- Chechen interior ministry officer Ruslan Geremeyev, a close relative of Kadyrov's right-hand man -- but those attempts were stifled.
Nemtsov's murder was the latest in a string of killings of Kremlin critics in Russia and echoed the gunning down of crusading journalist Anna Politkovskaya a decade ago.
Five men have been sentenced to up to life in jail for carrying out a 2006 contract hit on the reporter in the entrance of her Moscow apartment building, but those who ordered her killing have never been found.
Güncelleme Tarihi: 03 Ekim 2016, 20:45