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Russia26 August 2005

Judge frees imprisoned editor following international pressure

Nikolai Goshko, the deputy editor of the weekly Odintsovskaïa Nedela, who was sentenced to five years of hard labour on 5 June for libel, was released by judge Andrei Lantsov on 19 August in Smolensk. Gochko said he thought the judge had bowed to pressure from international organisations.

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16 June 2005 : Reporters Without Borders outraged at senior journalist’s five-year hard labour sentence for slander

Reporters Without Borders said today it was appalled and disgusted at the recent sentencing of Nikolai Goshko, deputy editor of the weekly Odintsovskaya Nedela, to five years at hard labour for accusing three top officials in the western city of Smolensk of being behind the murder in 2000 of radio station owner and manager Sergei Novikov.

"This disgusting and incredible sentence is totally out of proportion to the offence and in violation of international standards," the worldwide press freedom organisation said. "It highlights the complete collusion between government officials and the judiciary in Russia, especially outside the capital.

"It is especially outrageous because those who ordered Novikov’s death and those who killed him have still not been arrested. We demand that the legal authorities reverse the sentence and make every effort to conduct a serious, impartial and speedy investigation to find these people."

Goshko had accused the officials in a broadcast on Novikov’s Vesna radio station on 27 July 2000, the day after Novikov was killed. He was sentenced on 6 June by Judge Irina Malinovskaya, of the Leninsky court in Smolensk, under article 129 of the criminal code.

Novikov was gunned down in the stairwell of the apartment building where he lived. Goshko said on the radio that Novikov had told him shortly beforehand that he believed the city officials had decided to kill him because he had strongly criticised them. Goshko named the then regional governor, Alexander Prokhorov, his deputy Yuri Balbyshkin and former regional state prosecutor Viktor Zabolotsky as being involved. The three men immediately sued him for slander.

"It’s odd that the authorities punished a journalist, who may’ve spoken out rashly in the heat of the moment, on the same day as a court sentenced another person to just a year in prison for murdering someone," commented Oksana Laberko, the Smolensk bureau chief of the TV station Ren-TV.

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