Edinburgh vigil for Politkovskaya

Amnesty to request investigation into death of Russian journalist. Words: Allan Radcliffe

The Scottish branch of Amnesty International is to hold a vigil in memory of Anna Politkovskaya in the capital. The campaigning Russian journalist and tenacious critic of President Vladimir Putin, was shot dead in the stairwell of her apartment earlier this month.

Often referred to as ‘Russia’s lost moral conscience’, Politkovskaya worked as a special correspondent for the newspaper Novaya Gazeta. Widely respected for her coverage of the war in Chechnya, the writer was recruited as a negotiator by the Russian government during the 2002 siege of a Moscow theatre by Chechen separatists.

Her 2004 book, Putin’s Russia, portrayed the Russian president ‘without the rapture’, depicting a leader intolerant of dissent and cavalier about civil liberties. It is thought she was on the verge of publishing a damning history of alleged abductions and torture by government forces in Chechnya when she was murdered.

The vigil will take place at 2pm on Tuesday 24 October, outside the Russian Consulate General at 58 Melville Street in Edinburgh. Amnesty officials will hand in a letter to the Consul-General, requesting a thorough investigation into the journalist’s death.

Edinburgh International Book Festival director Catherine Lockerbie paid warm tribute to Politkovskaya, whom she invited to speak on the opening day of the 2005 festival. ‘She was a campaigning journalist and writer of immense integrity and personal courage. I invited her to the Book Festival out of admiration for her total commitment to the truth, her refusal to back off even when severely threatened and because the festival will always uphold the inviolable principle of freedom of expression for writers. I had thought that increasing exposure in the west would help to protect her but clearly was sadly mistaken.’

Book Festival organisers hope to post an audio file of Politkovskaya’s memorable 2005 event, in which she details her work investigating human rights abuses in Chechnya, at www.edbookfest.co.uk soon.


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