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Detained editor-in-chief goes on hunger strike

(Adil Soz/IFEX) - The editor-in-chief of the "Alma-Ata Info" newspaper, Ramazan Yesergepov, who was arrested on 6 January 2009, has gone on a hunger strike and has thus far refused to provide information to the authorities, according to his wife, Raushan Yesergepova.

On 6 January, Yesergepov was detained by Committee for National Security (CNS) agents in the Zhambyl region. On 9 January, he was charged with "illegally obtaining and divulging state secrets" and "abuse of authority." At the time of his detention, Yesergepov was being treated at a cardiology centre in the capital, Almaty. He was sent to a CNS pre-trial detention centre and has since begun a hunger strike to protest the manner in which he is being treated.

The charges against Yesergepov stem from an article entitled, "Who rules our country: the president or the CNS?" published in "Alma-Ata Info" on 21 November 2008. The article contained a fragment of official correspondence between two CNS officials. The CNS alleges that Yesergepov divulged official secrets from the special service forces in the article. The published material included information about the Zhambyl region CNS.

Raushan Yesergepova said her husband is in a prison ward without windows. The editor is suffering from health issues related to the hunger strike and has been treated for hypertension.

Raushan Yesergepova also noted that her husband does not want to end his hunger strike or provide information until his case is moved to a law enforcement agency other than the CNS. She said that the CNS itself is implicated in the case and as such should not be part of the investigation.

Civil society organisations and the independent media sent an open letter to Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev and Public Prosecutor Rashid Tusupbekov, calling for Yesergepov to be freed before proceeding with the case against him and for the CNS to be removed from the case.

The authors of the letter believe that CNS employees abused their authority not only when they detained Yesergepov, but also when they conducted a search of the editor's home and "Alma-Ata Info"'s offices. They intend to form an independent committee of experts to investigate these issues.

Updates the Yesergepov case:

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