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Russia / Kazakhstan10 March 2004

Kazakh opposition newspaper editor arrested in Russia

Russian police arrested and questioned Irina Petrushova, editor of a Kazakhstan newspaper, on 9 March in St Petersburg on the basis of an arrest warrant issued by the Kazakh authorities.

Petrushova, editor-in-chief of the Kazakh opposition weekly Assandi Times (formerly Respublica) "has been harassed for several years in Kazakhstan because of her newspaper’s political stance," said Reporters Without Borders. "It is unacceptable for this persecution to follow her to Russia," it added.

The international press freedom organisation demanded that the Kazakh authorities justify its arrest warrant and also asked for an explanation from the Russian interior ministry.

On a visit to St Petersburg, Petrushova was arrested when she went to the No 19 police station in the Vyborg district to register her presence in the city, as she is obliged to do as a resident of Moscow.

Police handed the journalist a document from the Russian interior ministry to the effect that the Kazakh tax police were seeking her arrest for infringing a tax law (Article 222-2 of the criminal code).

Police received an order four-and-a-half hours later to release her unconditionally. An interior ministry source told Petrushova her that it was a political matter and that the Russian police would not get involved. When they released her however police said there was a risk of the same thing happening again.

Petrushova told Reporters Without Borders that she had not received any summons from Kazakh courts and did not know what it could be about. Since she has Russian nationality she cannot be deported, but she is convinced that the Kazakh authorities are trying to keep her under surveillance.

The weekly, then called Respublika, was banned for three months on 6 August 2003 on the basis of a complaint from the information ministry that it was not legally registered.

Petrushova was sentenced to 18 months in prison on 4 July 2002 and then immediately amnestied, for not having declared her Russian nationality. On 22 May the same year, the weekly’s offices were destroyed after a Molotov cocktail attack. Three days earlier the decapitated body of a dog was found hanging in front of the entrance to the newspaper. On 8 March the journalist was sent a funeral wreath.

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