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Ukraine1 July 2005

Call for release of journalist thrown into prison without a valid reason

Reporters Without Borders has called on Interior Minister Yuri Lutsenko to immediately release Volodymyr Lutiev, editor of the weekly Yevpatoriskaya Nedelia, who was arrested in Sebastopol on 30 June without being given any valid reason.

Lutiev has begun a hunger strike in the Sebastapol prison in protest after his arrest was ordered by the appeal court.

"We call for the immediate release of Volodymyr Lutiev. We are astonished at the zeal with which he was thrown in prison when his only crime was to have displeased a local public figure by writing critical articles," said the press freedom organisation.

"Volodymyr Lutiev is considered a local Don Quixote who is constantly battling against injustice," said Lilia Budjurova, of the Association of Independent Journalists of Crimea. "I am outraged at this brutal and unwarranted arrest."

A deputy in the Autonomous Republic of Crimea, Mykola Kotliarevsky, lodged a complaint against the journalist in October 2002 for attempted murder. Lutiev, author of several critical articles on his controversial election, was arrested one month later. He has quickly released but was subjected to an order obliging him to seek permission before leaving the city.

A few days before his arrest, he had informed the Sebastapol appeal court in writing of his plan to travel to Kiev to meet UN human rights commissioner Nina Karpachova. But it was this same court that ordered his arrest, accusing him of leaving town.

"I don’t rule out the possibility that the appeal court judges were bribed by Kotliarevsky because this arrest is groundless in law. I very much wonder why the judges should have changed their opinion when they rejected a request from Kotliarevsky to arrest him on eight previous occasions," Lutiev’s lawyer, Viktor Ovechkin told Reporters Without Borders.

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