Kazakhstan23 January 2003
Opposition journalist will face trial alone
Sergey Duvanov decided to dismiss his lawyers and defend himself on 23
January because he felt the court was not giving him the chance to be
defended in the normal manner. On 22 January, the court rejected his lawyers
’ request for the case to be dimissed on the grounds of a lack of evidence
and the many violations of the law during the investigation and trial.
Reporters Without Borders said today it was very concerned about the press freedom situation in Kazakhstan and called on European Commission president Romano Prodi to raise the case of jailed opposition journalist Sergei Duvanov during the forthcoming visit to Brussels of the country’s president, Nursultan Nazarbayev.
"In view of the treatment meted out to opposition journalists and the persistent harassment of Duvanov, it is hard to give credence to the accusation of raping a minor that police offered for his recent arrest," said Reporters Without Borders secretary-general Robert Ménard in a letter to Prodi.
"Many human rights organisations, as well as the Council of Europe, the OSCE and the United States, have expressed concern to the Kazakh authorities about the decline in press freedom this year and the arrest of Duvanov. We ask you to get President Nazarbayev to agree to clarify the Duvanov affair and respect European standards of press freedom."
Dunavov, editor of the opposition magazine Bulletin, published by the International Bureau for Human Rights, was arrested on 28 October and accused of raping a minor. He had been due to fly the next day to the United States to present a report on democracy and human rights in Kazakhstan. He went on hunger strike for 10 days in a bid to prove his innocence, but abandoned it after he was force-fed by guards at the Almaty remand centre.
Duvanov, who is close to the opposition group Kazakh Democratic Choice, is also being prosecuted for "harming the honour and dignity" of President Nazarbayev under article 318 of the criminal code. He faces three years in prison for the offence, which arose from the appearance on the opposition website kub.kz on 6 May of an article called "The Silence of the Lambs," which criticised the president and said he had embezzled state funds. In August, Duvanov was badly beaten up by thugs.