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Belarus30 December 2005

Authorities shelve probe into Cherkasova’s murder without ever finding any clues

Reporters Without Borders today condemned the decision by the Minsk prosecutor’s office, announced on 27 December, to suspend the investigation into the 16 October 2004 murder of Veronika Cherkasova, an investigative journalist with the independent trade union weekly Solidarnost.

Investigators never found any clues as to the identity of the murderer and yet never explored the possibility that she was killed because of her work as a journalist, despite calls from Reporters Without Borders and her family that they should do this.

“The decision to drop the investigation and shelve the case leaves little hope that the culprit will ever be identified,” Reporters Without Borders said. “One more case that will never be solved, like the cases of fellow journalists Dmitri Zavadski, Mikhailo Kolomiets and Vassili Grodnikov. Belarus is a country where the murders of journalists are not investigated.”

The Belarusian authorities always limited themselves to suspecting Cherkasova’s young son, Anton Filimonov, who was the last known person to leave her home, where she was killed. The boy fled to Moscow to escape the medical examination demanded by the Minsk prosecutor’s office, which threatened to commit him to a psychiatric clinic. The victim’s mother, Diana Cherkasova, accused the authorities of hounding her family.

The survival of Cherkasova’s newspaper, Solidarnost, has meanwhile been threatened by a decision by the state company that has a monopoly on newspaper distribution, announced on 30 November, to stop delivering it to news stands.

At a news conference in April at the headquarters of the Belarus Association of Journalists (BAJ), Solidarnost editor Alexandre Starikevitch voiced amazement that investigators never linked Cherkasova’s murder to the research she was doing into the Belarusian government’s arms sales to Iraq. He said he suspected the authorities were involved in her murder and were trying to cover it up by ruling out any possibility of a connection with her work.

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