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Police seize computers from four journalists

(CJES/IFEX) - Alexander Pusev, senior interrogator from the Gomel interior affairs department, summoned four journalists (Natalya Radina, Irina Khalip, Svetlana Kalinkina, and Marina Koktysh) to the Minsk Pervomaisky district interior affairs department for questioning on April 29, 2010. Police recently searched the journalists' residences and seized their computers as part of the investigation into a slander case involving Ivan Korzh, former head of the State Security Committee Department for the Gomel region.

Natalya Radina, a journalist with the website http://www.charter97.org , was informed of the results of the evaluation of the eight computers seized from her apartment. The evaluation, which was performed by Interior Ministry experts, did not confirm that these computers were used to send out materials defamatory to any State Security Committee officials.

Despite the fact that the evaluation did not yield any materials that could interest the investigators working on this case, the interrogator told Radina that more evaluations would be conducted to determine whether the seized computers were used to administer the website charter97.org. The official told the journalist the experts would conduct an additional investigation to check her email, all contacts, and her communication via Skype and QIP.

Before the questioning, Radina received a phone call from her district policeman, who said he had been asked by the Minsk Leninsky district prosecutor's office to give her a reference. The police officer asked the journalist where she worked.

"Now everything is clear and transparent in this case. It is used solely to put pressure on journalists working for the website charter97.org before the presidential elections. They are making it impossible for us to work by constantly questioning us and searching our apartments and offices. We have lost our office as a result of the pressure put by police on our landlady. There is a ban on the journalistic profession in Belarus. I absolutely agree with the Interior Ministry experts: there is no information on Ivan Korzh or Vyacheslav Dudkin in our computers, but there is dictatorship in our country. We will write about it, no matter what the authorities try to do," Radina said.

"Narodnaya Volya" journalists Svetlana Kalinkina and Marina Koktysh and "Novaya Gazeta" journalist Irina Khalip were also informed of the results of the evaluations of the computers seized from them. The computers have not been returned to them.

"Investigator Pusev, who is working on this case, is unhappy with the results of the evaluations and has ordered more. It turned out that experts were unable to restore all the files deleted by me," Khalip said.

In a separate incident, a criminal case has been opened over comments left on the charter97.org website, Radina told a press conference in Minsk on April 29.

"Human rights activist Oleg Volchek told me today that a second criminal case has been opened over publications on the website charter97.org. The Prosecutor General's Office has opened a slander case [. . . ] over comments posted online about the articles published on the site, including an article reproduced from the newspaper 'Sovetskaya Belorusiya' published by the Lukashenko administration, which was written by former Afghan War veteran Alexander Ryzhankov in the traditions of Soviet propaganda. The article condemns Afghan War veterans who have spoken against the authorities and refused to accept medals from Lukashenko. That article outraged many of the site's readers," Radina said.

"There were no obscenities in the comments. There was a lot of outrage about the 'persecution' of principled people by the state media," said Radina.

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