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Russian journalist faces jail on defamation and insult charges

(CJES/IFEX) - 8 October 2010 - The trial of the case involving Vladimir Berezovsky, a journalist with Parlamentskaya Gazeta and editor-in-chief of the website, who is charged with "defamation" and "insult," has ended in Tashkent. The journalist is facing up to six months in jail, up to three years of corrective labor, or a fine in an amount of up to 400 minima wages (some US$12,000) if convicted of the charges. Berezovsky is a citizen of Russia and the first foreign journalist to be tried in Uzbekistan. The trial of the case has been accompanied by numerous violations, journalist Alexei Volosevich reported on the website .

The hearing began with a scandal, which broke out when Justice Nodyr Akbarov barred Danis Bashirov, an official from the Russian embassy in Uzbekistan, from the hearing, saying the diplomat was required to obtain permission from the Supreme Court to attend court hearings. Marat Zakhidov, vice-president of the International Human Rights Society, who has recently issued a statement in Berezovsky's defense, also had great difficulty getting into the courtroom.

Twenty minutes into the hearing, lawyer Sergei Mayorov had to challenge the court as it had rejected several important motions from the defense under pressure form the prosecutor and rejected the demand to call the victim to the courtroom.

Nevertheless, the court ordered that the case continue to be tried by the same judge. The court proceedings of the case have almost been completed and the only thing left is the presentation of arguments. The judicial examination of the case is close to completion. The sentence may be handed out in the nearest future, and independent experts believe the journalist will be convicted.

The U.S. embassy in Uzbekistan has issued a statement on freedom of the media in Uzbekistan, issued by U.S. Ambassador Ian Kelly at a meeting of the OSCE Permanent Council, in which he addressed the prosecution of journalists Vladimir Berezovsky and Abdumalik Boboyev, saying that the criminal prosecution of journalists for free expression of their opinions is a violation of the obligations voluntarily assumed by Uzbekistan to the OSCE and has a depressing effect on journalists in Uzbekistan. The U.S. called on Uzbekistan to stop prosecuting journalists for their publications.

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