(RSF/IFEX) - In a letter to Justice Minister Nelly Beshenalieva, RSF protested the sentencing of Moldosaly Ibraimov, a journalist with the weekly "Akyikat", to two years in prison for "libel", and the imprisonment of a second journalist. Without wishing to comment on the facts of these cases, RSF called on the authorities to immediately release the two journalists. Robert Ménard, the organisation's secretary-general, added: "Even though Moldosaly Ibraimov was found guilty of libel, international bodies responsible for human rights believe that imprisonment as punishment for the expression of an opinion is a serious violation of human rights."
According to information collected by RSF, on 19 June 2000, the regional court in Jalal-Abad, southern Kirgizia, sentenced Ibraimov to two years' imprisonment for "insulting a judge" and ordered him to pay 100,000 soms (US$2,000, 1,300 euros) in damages. He was taken to jail the same day. "Akyikat" was also ordered to pay 100,000 soms. In a report titled "Did the judge commit a crime?", published on 8 April, the journalist had accused a judge of corruption. Ibraimov was unable to prove that his allegations were true and the judge filed a complaint for libel. The court decided to pass a criminal sentence against the journalist - unilaterally and in contradiction with the procedure laid down in the penal code.
A second journalist, Dzhanybek Momunov, founder of the independent newspaper "Duburt", was arrested on 30 May and taken to Suzak prison in the region of Jalal-Abad. The judge at the court in this city had claimed that he had failed to turn up at a hearing on 25 May in connection with a libel case brought against him. The journalist said he had not received notification of the hearing. Proceedings were started against him by a member of parliament whom he had accused of corruption in several reports.