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Kazakhstan21 December 2006

RFE/RL correspondent held illegally in Almaty for the past six days

Reporters Without Borders voiced support today for the complaint which its Kazakh partner organisation, Journalists in Danger, yesterday sent to the interior minister about the illegal arrest of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty correspondent Azamat Zhetpysbayev, who has been detained in Almaty since 15 December without being told why.

“We call on the police to either release Zhetpysbayev immediately or to inform him of the charges against him, so that he can defend himself,” Reporters Without Borders said. “He was arrested by a police unit that usually handles financial cases, which reinforces our suspicion about the nature of the charges that could be brought against him. Accusations of financial crimes have often been used as a pretext for silencing the opposition in the past.”

Zhetpysbayev went missing on 15 December after taking part in a news conference on democracy in Kazakhstan. His employer told the news agency Reuters yesterday that he was being held in Almaty prison.

Journalists in Danger thinks he is being held for political reasons. “We interpret Azamat Zhetpysbayev’s arrest on the eve of a four-day holiday and his continuing detention without being able to consult his lawyer as an attempt to intimidate him and subject him to psychological harassment,” the organisation wrote in its letter to the interior minister.

The organisation believes Zhetpysbayev was arrested because of his close links with Makhambet Abzhan, the head of the youth wing of the opposition Communist Party, who was himself recently arrested.

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