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REGIONS:

Babitsky trial date set


(CPJ/IFEX) - The following is a CPJ press release:


Babitsky Trial Date Set

New York, September 20, 2000 --- A regional court in the Russian republic of Dagestan announced yesterday that the trial of the Russian journalist Andrei Babitsky will begin at 10 a.m. on Monday, October 2.

Babitsky, a Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) correspondent whose reporting on the war in Chechnya angered Russian authorities and led to his detention last January, is being charged with carrying false documents. If convicted, he faces a maximum fine of two months salary.

On or around January 16, 2000, Russian military authorities secretly detained Babitsky in a Russian-controlled area of Chechnya. His arrest followed several weeks of harassment in retaliation for his coverage of Russian military operations in the breakaway republic.

Babitsky's fate remained mysterious until late January, as the authorities did not immediately announce that he was in military custody. He was formally arrested on January 27, on the charge of "participating in an armed formation" (this charge was later dropped). On February 3, Russian military authorities abruptly handed Babitsky over to purported Chechen rebels, whom Babitsky later claimed were loyal to Moscow.

On February 25, Babitsky re-surfaced in Makhachkala, capital of neighboring Dagestan. Russian authorities promptly arrested him on the charge of possessing a false Azeri passport, which Babitsky claimed had been forced on him by his Chechen captors after they took away his own documents. Three days later he was flown to Moscow and forbidden from leaving the city before his trial.

At the trial, which is expected to last several days, the journalist will be accompanied by two lawyers and several colleagues from RFE/RL.


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