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Journalist on trial for slander receives numerous threats

(CJES/IFEX) - Witnesses in the slander case against Mikhail Beketov, editor-in-chief of the newspaper "Khimkinskaya Pravda", said the journalist is receiving numerous threats.

In the course of several years before the November 2008 attack, Beketov received regular threats, and some of them were carried out. Unknown criminals set fire to the journalist's car and killed his dog, Beketov's friends, who are witnesses in the case, told the Khimki magistrate.

On 12 October 2010, the court began with the proceedings of the the criminal case against Beketov, who is accused of slandering Vladimir Strelchenko, mayor the city of Khimki, in the Moscow region. The mayor did not attend the hearing, citing his right to testify through his representative.

Beketov was taken to the court building in an intensive care vehicle an hour after the hearing began. He was allowed to go home due to his frail health. The journalist's friends Lyudmila Fedotova, her husband Yury Fedotov, and former Khimki deputy mayor Igor Belousov testified that Beketov had told them he was getting regular threats by phone from people who demanded that he stop his activities. The witnesses could not specify the activities, but assumed that the callers meant the editorial policies of "Khimkinskaya Pravda".

Fedotova testified that unknown people "killed Beketov's dog and placed its dead body on a carpet in front of his gate."

Fedotov, in turn, recalled a phone call he received from Beketov not long before the attack. "Before 12 November [the day of the attack], Beketov received a phone call from a member of a criminal group, who told him about 'an order to cripple him,'" the witness said.

The witnesses said Beketov took those threats seriously, carried a traumatic weapon, and linked the threats to his criticism of the local administration.

"He believed that the burning of his car, and the killing of his dog were warnings," Fedotov said.

Khimki Mayor Vladimir Strelchenko was insulted by Beketov's accusations that he masterminded the burning of the journalist's car in 2007 and he believed that it could harm his reputation, the mayor's representative Anzhela Dumova told the court.

Dumova said Strelchenko had not known Beketov and had not read his articles before the car incident.

The hearing was rescheduled to 21 October due to the court's request to summon Strelchenko to court in person.

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