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Journalist facing lawsuit over articles victim of suspicious attack in Kyiv

(IMI/IFEX) - On the night of 7 December 2007, Maksim Birovash, a special correspondent for "Business" newspaper, was assaulted by two unidentified persons, the on-line publication "Telekrytyka" reported. The attack comes as Birovash faces legal action over his reporting on the activities of a business consortium involved in the country's passport programme. The reporter suspects the attack is related to the lawsuit and writings of his related to the case.

The incident occurred in the building in which the journalist lives. He had just entered the building's elevator when two men followed him in. They knocked him down, took his briefcase and fled. The briefcase was found later, but his laptop and all the documents relating to the lawsuit against him had disappeared. All his other personal belongings, however, remained.

Birovash said that among the stolen papers was documentation of correspondence with the Ministry of Internal Affairs, reports of sessions at the passport commission, and some other documents he produced during the trial.

In November 2007, representatives of the EDAPS consortium filed a legal action against Birovash over his articles on the consortium's activities, demanding the sum of 46 million hryvnias (approx. US$9 million) as compensation for moral damages.

Birovash told IMI that he believes the attack is in response to his investigation into the activities of the EDAPS group. Police investigators do not agree with this hypothesis.

Birovash lodged a complaint about the assault and robbery at the Darnitski district police station in Kyiv. Soon after, the police arrested a suspect in possession of two mobile phones belonging to Birovash.

"A suspect has been detained; he had some of my stuff. He confessed and named his accomplices. The police then set out to arrest another suspect, but I am unaware of the outcome. Up to now, the investigators have avoided suggesting that the incident could be related to my journalism, but what continues to make me suspicious is the fact that the police have not recovered my UPS key, nor the documents related to my investigation." He added that his assailants beat him as though they aimed to intimidate him, and that it is especially suspicious that all the information relating to his investigation of EDAPS was stolen.

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