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Author charged with slander and invasion of privacy for publishing book critical of president

(CJES/IFEX) - The Investigations Department of the Russian prosecutor's office of the Republic of Tatarstan has brought charges against Irek Murtazin, former head of the Tatarstan president's press service. Murtazin is charged with slander, invading the privacy of Tatarstan's President Mintimer Shaimiyev and fanning hatred and a feud via the mass media.

A criminal case was opened at the request of the republic's president regarding a book by Murtazin entitled "Mintimer Shaimiyev: The Last President of Tatarstan."

Murtazin is charged with "dissemination, in his book, of false information defamatory to the honor, dignity, and business reputation of Mintimer Shaimiyev." The book, for example, states that "Shaimiyev is a fine example of a behavior pattern in which legal nihilism dominates. For this reason, he does not know how to deal with corruption. But corruption has been and still is rampant (in Tatarstan)" (Page 56).

Linguistic and psychological tests performed on the statements contained in the book indicate that they are defamatory to the president's honor, dignity and business reputation.
On 12 September 2008, Murtazin posted on his blog at http://www.livejournal.com that the president of Tatarstan had died while vacationing in Turkey. He was one of the first people to post the information, which was false.

Murtazin denies any wrongdoing. The accused will begin reading the case materials (almost 12 volumes) in the near future, RIA Novosti has reported.

Murtazin is currently at home receiving treatment after being attacked by unknown individuals, Rosbalt has reported. The attack occurred on 29 December. Murtazin was attacked by two men aged 25 to 28 while parking his car.

When asked who his attackers could be, Murtazin said: "I suspect that they are (Kazan Mayor Ilsur) Metshin's people."

CJES believes this case should be decriminalised since the organisation believes measures such as the publication of a refutation and/or compensation for moral damages are a more reasonable and appropriate punishment for the journalist.

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