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Russia3 February 2006

Journalist gets suspended prison sentence for publishing statements by Chechen leaders

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Reporters Without Borders condemned the suspended sentence of two years in prison passed today by a court in Nizhny Novgorod on Stanislav Dmitrievsky, the editor of the newspaper Pravo-Zaschita (Legal Defence) and president of the Russian-Chechen Friendship Society, for publishing interviews with Chechen separatist leaders.

Convicted of “inciting inter-ethnic hatred and offending human dignity” under article 282 of the Russian penal code, Dmitrievsky will have to serve his prison sentence if found guilty of any other serious offence during the next four years.

“This verdict is yet another confirmation of the taboo about Chechnya, which no one may discuss freely without being accused of expressing extremist opinions,” Reporters Without Borders said. “Only information coming out of Moscow may be used to mention this region, where all independent information is excluded.”

The press freedom organisation added: “Dmitrievsky was convicted as an example, simply because he published statements by former Chechen leaders and for once allowed Russian citizens to hear an alternative to the Kremlin’s views. We voice our solidarity with Dmitrievsky and we call for this conviction to be quashed on appeal.”

Dmitrievsky denied the charges that were brought against him by the Nizhny Novgorod public prosecutor on 2 September and pleaded not guilty when the trial began on 16 November. The indictment referred to two documents published in Pravo-Zaschita in the spring of 2004. One was drafted by former Chechen deputy prime minister Akhmed Zakaev, now a refugee in London. The other was written by the former separatist president Aslan Maskhadov, who was murdered by the Russian secret services in March 2005.

Both leaders appealed to the Russian people and the European parliament, in November 2003 and March 2004, to a peaceful solution to the conflict that had dragged between Moscow and Grozny since 1994.

Dmitrievsky hopes to appeal against his conviction. If rejected, he says he will take his case to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.

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