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Journalist who contested outcome of State Duma elections beaten

(CJES/IFEX) - Grigory Belonuchkin, a parliamentary reporter with the publishing center Panorama, was beaten up in the city of Dolgoprudny, in the Moscow region, during the early hours of 2 April 2008.

Before the attack the journalist received two phone calls from a person who threatened him in connection with a lawsuit he had filed against the Dolgoprudny elections commission, which he accused of rigging the 2007 State Duma elections. In his lawsuit, the journalist demanded that the initial tally of votes be compared to the tally registered by the city's territorial elections commission. Citing information received from Communist Party election monitors, Belonuchkin said that the two tallies were very different and the final outcome (registered by the territorial elections commission) was much more favourable to the United Russia party than the initial outcome.

The journalist worked as an election monitor for the Communist Party at two polling stations in Dolgoprudny during the 2007 State Duma elections. Belonuchkin, who says he found and photographed double protocols of the voting, stated in a report that the performance of United Russia in the final protocols was 30% and 14% higher than it was in the initial protocols.

Belonuchkin filed a complaint with the Central Elections Commission, the city prosecutors, and the court. The first hearing of the case was scheduled for 1 April, but was rescheduled for 2 April after the elections commissions chairmen failed to show up.

On the evening of 1 April, the journalist received a phone call from an unknown man, who asked for a meeting. When the journalist went to the agreed upon meeting place, he was knocked off his feet and beaten. He was hospitalised with a concussion.

No direct connection has been found between the attack on Belonuchkin and the legal proceedings. However, the journalists' colleagues and friends believe such a connection does exist. They say Belonuchkin had received threats. He reported the threats to the police, but to no avail, despite
the fact that the callers' numbers were identified.

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