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Belarus19 December 2005

Investigation closed into suspicious death of Vassily Grodnikov

Reporters Without Borders said it was particularly concerned after Minsk prosecutor Dmitry Kirilchik announced on 14 December 2005 that he was closing the investigation into the death of Norodnaya Volya journalist Vassily Grodnikov.

The Grodnikov case was wound up for a first time on 28 November on the theory his death was accidental because of the absence of any signs of a break-in at the victim’s apartment. The investigation was then reopened on 29 November.

Reporters Without Borders said it was particularly shocked by the attitude of the judicial authorities in this case and said it feared that the precise circumstances of Grodnikov’s death would never be known.

The organisation will remain vigilant and continue to press for a criminal investigation into the death of the journalist, taking into account a number of factors that made it likely he was murdered because of his work.

7 December 2005

Quick results desired now that Grodnikov case has been reopened

Reporters Without Borders today welcomed police inspector Dmitry Kirilchik’s decision to reopen the investigation into the death of journalist Vassili Grodnikov and said it would pay close attention to its results.

Kirilchik announced the reopening of the investigation on 29 November, a day after he said was closing the case on the grounds that the injuries that caused Grodnikov’s death must have been accidentally self-inflicted as there was no sign of a break-in.

The new investigation is due to continue until 18 December but could be extended beyond that date.

The original decision to close the case had drawn an immediate protest from Grodnikov’s brother, Nikolai Grodnev.

“It is strange that the investigators found no evidence to support the theory that he was murdered,” Grodnev told Reporters Without Borders. “Vassili died from a head injury caused by a blunt object. Traces of blood were found in 17 different places in the apartment. Everything was photographed. I cannot believe my brother went all over the apartment accidentally banging his head again and again in different places.”

Reporters Without Borders would still like to see the investigators seriously consider the possibility that Grodnikov was murdered because of his work as a journalist, and it hopes for concrete results in the coming weeks.

30 November 2005

Reporters Without Borders condemns closing of file on Grodnikov case

read in russian

Reporters Without Borders has condemned the 28 November refusal to open a criminal investigation into the death of opposition journalist Vassily Grodnikov, in a letter addressed to the President of Belarus, Alexander Lukashenko.

Paris, 30 November 2005

Dear Mr President,

In a letter on 22 November, we conveyed to the interior minister the need to open a criminal investigation into the death of Vassily Grodnikov, taking into account a number of elements to support the theory that he was murdered for reasons linked to his profession.

We now wish to express our deep concern following the announcement by the Minsk district prosecutor’s office on 28 November of its refusal to open an investigation into this case.

Vassily Grodnikov was found dead in his apartment in the Minsk suburbs, on 18 October 2005. Investigators found blood stains on the wallpaper, a broken table and dried blood on the victim’s head. A post mortem examination revealed that death was caused by a blow from a blunt object.

Shortly before his death, the journalist was working on the sensitive issue of elderly people living along being swindled out of their apartments. In addition, according to the independent weekly Zhoda, the journalist had left on a table a rough copy of an article headlined “A booked office or several uncompromising questions for the president of the country and the agencies under his control.”

We fear we will never know the exact circumstances of the death of Vassily Grodnikov, as was unfortunately the case for two other journalists, Veronika Cherkasova and Dmitry Zavadski.

The first was found murdered at her home in Minsk, on 20 October 2004 with several dozen stab wounds. Since opening their investigation, police have worked on the theory that it was either a crime of passion or linked to a family quarrel, to the detriment of the professional lead.

Dmitry Zavadski went missing at Minsk airport on 7 July 2000. The investigation into his disappearance was closed twice. Suspicions that the authorities were implicated in the case and that they are trying to cover up the truth are still current. Once again, the silence and inactivity of the justice system are very worrying.

These murders should not remain unpunished. The families of the victims and the Belarus people have the right to know what really happened.

That is why we urge you to not to close the Vassily Grodnikov case without thoroughly exploring the possibility of murder and without finally obtaining tangible results on the suspicious deaths of Veronika Charkasova and Dmitry Zavadski.

I trust you will give this request your careful consideration.

Yours sincerely,

Robert Ménard, Secretary General

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