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Belarus22 October 2004

Cheremet hearing adjourned

A case against journalist Pavel Cheremet, charged with causing a "minor disturbance of the peace" that was due to be heard on 20 October has been adjourned.

The judge, Ruslan Kazadaye, refused to go ahead with the case since the police had failed to produce the file in court and the complainants were not present.

The charges were not however dropped. "A police patrol could pick me up at any street corner and bring me back to court," said Cheremet.

19.10.04 - Russian TV journalist attacked outside Minsk government office, then detained by police

Russian TV journalist Pavel Sheremet, the co-author of a critical biography of Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko, was attacked by two men in civilian dress outside the Minsk district government building on 17 October and then detained by police for a "minor disturbance of the peace," Reporters Without Borders and the Belarus Association of Journalists (BAJ) said today.

The two organisations voiced deep concern about Sheremet’s state of health, as he was hospitalised with suspected cerebral trauma after being put in a preliminary detention cell. The police later tried to interrogate him in the hospital on the night of October 17. He is due to appear in court on 20 October.

Reporters Without Borders and the BAJ called on interior minister Uladzimir Naumau and the Belarus state prosecutor to carry out an additional investigation into the case and to determine whether the Minsk district police acted lawfully by placing an injured journalist in a special detention jail instead of giving him help. "Pavel Sheremet was the victim of provocation," they said.

Sheremet, who works for the Russian TV station Pervy Kanal, has been charged with disturbing the peace under article 156 of the civil code.

But his two assailants were not charged. Interior ministry spokesman Genadz Glebchyk said they asked Sheremet for a cigarette and it was Sheremet who then insulted and attacked them. Glebchyk also said it was the two men who alerted the police.

Glebchyk said he did not know the cause of the injuries for which Sheremet is being treated in the neurosurgical unit of a Minsk hospital. Many witnesses said Sheremet was in good health before his arrest.

Svetlana Kalinkina, a journalist with the newspaper Belorusskaya Delovaya Gazeta (BDG) who saw the incident, said the police did not take statements from any of the journalists who, like her, were witnesses.

This is not the first time Sheremet has been detained in Belarus. While chief of the Minsk bureau of the Russian public television station ORT, he was arrested with ORT cameraman Dmitri Zavadski on 26 July 1997 as they were preparing a report on security gaps along Belarus’ border with Lithuania. The two of them spent several months in prison.

Zavadski disappeared on 7 July 2000 at Minsk airport. The investigation into his disappearance was closed earlier this year although his fate was never established and allegations of senior official involvement were not properly investigated.

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