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Journalist's home destroyed in fire, arson suspected

(CJES/IFEX) - The house of opposition journalist Salimzhan Gaisin, located in the city of Marks, Saratov region, was burned down on June 15, 2010. Activists from the Saratov division of the Solidarnost movement said they are convinced that the purpose of this incident is to intimidate the journalist.

The fire began from the outside of the building. The journalist's daughter, her friend, son-in-law, and two granddaughters were in the house when the fire began. Gaisin's daughter sustained burns and the house was completely destroyed in the fire. Gaisin said he suspects the fire was caused by arson.

"I edit the Balakovo newspaper 'Ogni Povolzhya', which has a column devoted to events taking place in Marks. We have recently run at least 15 articles criticizing corrupt officials from the district administration. I have already warned the district prosecutor about my suspicions about the criminal connection to this incident and will be waiting for a reaction from the supervisory bodies," the journalist told his colleagues.

Solidarnost activists said the suspected arson was "a planned action organized by those whose schemes and abuses Gaisin exposed in his publications." They demanded that law enforcement agencies probe this incident and "not turn a blind eye to what has happened to this journalist, who has written on dangerous issues for many years."

In May 2008, Gaisin was sentenced to 180 hours of correctional labor for criticizing Saratov City Duma deputy Alexei Berezovsky. The journalist was found guilty of slander.

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