ASTRAKHAN, Russia — When a bomb killed eight people at a busy marketplace on a steamy summer afternoon here five years ago, police quickly solved the case, as they often do with spectacular efficiency in Russia.
A composite drawing of a mysterious woman seen at the market that day was distributed, and a local drunk who vaguely resembled her was soon arrested. One of her former lovers was hauled in next, and then a few ne'er-do-wells he knew.
Soon the police had four confessions — all pointing the finger at a wealthy businessman who prosecutors say ordered the bombing to scare off elderly competitors.
The jury didn't buy it, finding the businessman's claim that he had been set up by police for refusing to pay bribes much more plausible. All of the defendants were acquitted in late 2003. In a country with no double jeopardy clause, a second trial began 11 months later, but that ended in a mistrial. So did a third. A fourth jury again acquitted the suspects. In April, the Supreme Court upheld the verdict.
But it's not over yet.