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Lawsuit against independent newspaper dismissed

(Adil Soz/IFEX) - On August 23, 2010, the judge for the Specialized Interdistrict Economic Court of Almaty, Gulnar Meyrzhanova, dismissed the charges in a lawsuit filed against the independent Kazakh newspaper "Central Asia Monitor" for "protection of honour, dignity and business reputation". The judge also ordered the release of the newspaper's seized property.

On July 16, the Kazakhstan Development Bank and six companies - recipients of the bank's loans - sued the "Central Asia Monitor", demanding the newspaper pay KZT 350 million (approx. US$2.4 million) in moral damages after the newspaper published several critical stories about the companies. The stories were published under the pen name of Alan Beketov. The author wrote about problems the companies have had with returning loans and paying back monies owed to the Kazakhstan Development Bank.

On July 19, the plaintiffs requested the seizure of the newspaper's assets. Judge Meyrzhanova accepted the claim and ordered the seizure of the newspaper's assets to ensure the paper could pay the damages if necessary in the near future.

The local media expressed solidarity with the "Central Asia Monitor" by covering the developments in the criminal case and providing updates.

On August 3, the Union of Journalists of Kazakhstan and Adil Soz, the International Foundation for the Protection of Freedom of Speech, issued a public statement regarding the situation and expressing support for the newspaper.

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