An appeal court in the Moldovan city of Balti issued a ruling on 2 April confirming the acquittal of Igor Velchev, a young Moldovan, on charges of murdering Russian journalist Ilya Zimin in Moscow. A reporter for Moscow-based NTV, Zimin was found dead in his apartment on 26 February 2006.
The court rejected the appeal by prosecutors against Velchev’s acquittal by a court in the northern district of Ocnita on 25 December. He was tried in Moldova under a Commonwealth of Independent States provision for accused persons to be prosecuted in their country of origin.
Velchev’s lawyer, Viktor Shilat, said the appeal court’s decision showed the professionalism of the Moldovan justice system. Velchev maintains that he is innocent and accuses the Russian authorities of trying to make him the scapegoat.
Zimin’s family said they did not rule out the possibility of appealing to the supreme court of justice, Moldova’s highest court. There is a two-month deadline for submitting an appeal.
Zimin’s colleagues voiced their discontent after Velchev’s acquittal in December and NTV representatives said they were considering taking the case to the European Court of Human Rights so that it could be examined in an “impartial manner.”
Velchev was arrested in his home town of Kagul, in southern Moldova, on 23 June 2006, months after he had been identified by the Moscow authorities as the suspect in Zimin’s murder. Article 13 of the Moldovan criminal code forbids the extradition of Moldovan citizens accused of crimes in other countries.