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Court reverses sentence against journalist, sends case for new trial; regional authority files request to close newspaper

(CJES/IFEX) - The Saratov Regional Court has reversed a sentence issued by a first instance court and a court of appeals against Salimzhan Gaisin, the deputy editor-in-chief of the "Saratovsky Reporter" newspaper. Gaisan was sentenced to 180 hours of community work on a charge of "slander in the mass media". In September 2007, a criminal case was opened against Gaisin based on Article 129 of the Russian Criminal Code. The case was launched after parliamentarian Alexei Berezovsky alleged that an article by Gaisin entitled, "Medvezhya Khvatka", which translates as "A Bear's Grip", contained false and defamatory information about him.

On 19 May 2008, a District 1 magistrate in the Voskresensk district found Gaisin guilty of deliberately disseminating false and defamatory information about Berezovsky and sentenced the journalist to 180 hours of community work. A court of appeals upheld the ruling.

After considering another appeal by the journalist, the Saratov Regional Court reversed the ruling and sent the case to the Saratov District Court for a new trial. The journalist's lawyer, Stanislav Zaitsev, said the sentence was reversed because "serious procedural regulations had been violated during the trial."

In the meantime, a regional authority overseeing the observance of media legislation filed a request with the court seeking the closure of "Saratovsky Reporter". On 19 September, the newspaper's editor-in-chief, Sergei Mikhailov, received a copy of the request, in which the court is asked to "halt the operation of the 'Saratovsky Reporter' newspaper" because its publications contain elements of extremism.

Updates the Gaisin case:

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