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Politkovskaya murder suspect shot in leg on Moscow street

MOSCOW (Reuters) - A Chechen man on trial for the murder of journalist and government critic Anna Politkovskaya was shot in the leg, his lawyer said on Friday, calling it an attempt to silence him.

Dzhabrail Makhmudov is accused along with his two brothers, their uncle and an ex-policeman of gunning down Politkovskaya at her Moscow home in 2006, a murder that came to symbolize the risks faced by Kremlin critics under Vladimir Putin, who returned to the presidency last year.

Makhmudov was shot on a Moscow street late on Wednesday and taken to hospital where he underwent surgery, Musayev said. He is conscious but unable to move his left leg, he added.

"We have no hard proof that the attack is linked to the trial but there is reason to think so. We know for sure that the people who really followed and killed Politkovskaya are at large," Musayev told Reuters.

"It is fully probable that they tried to silence my client."

Makhmudov's brother Rustam is charged with firing the shots that killed Politkovskaya. All five suspects have pleaded not guilty.

Politkovskaya made her name exposing state corruption and human rights violations in Chechenya. Her supporters and colleagues at the Novaya Gazeta newspaper believe that those on trial were merely foot soldiers and that the people who ordered the murder have not been revealed.

Nadezhda Prusenkova, spokeswoman for the paper, said she believed all five men were involved in the murder.

"The court will rule on his guilt or innocence. From a human point of view, it is always a very bad thing when a man is shot and wounded, no matter how vile he may be," she said.

"But we do not rule out it is just a tactical move to protract the trial."

(Reporting by Gabriela Baczynska; Editing by Robin Pomeroy)

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