Uzbek courts convicts, then amnesties Russian journalist
A court in Uzbekistan convicted a Russian journalist of slandering the Central Asian country with his reporting but then immediately freed him under an amnesty, an activist said Wednesday.
"Yakkasaray district court found Vladimir Berezovsky, a Russian citizen, guilty of slander and insult," Surat Ikramov, head of the Initiative Group of Independent Rights Defenders of Uzbekistan, told AFP.
"The court then immediately amnestied him according to the amnesty announced on the 19th anniversary of Uzbekistan's independence" on September 1, said Ikramov, who has been monitoring the trail.
Berezovsky, editor of vesti.uz website on Uzbekistan, pleaded not guilty and plans to appeal the verdict, according to Ikramov.
Berezovsky told the judges that finding him guilty "would be another blow to journalism" in Uzbekistan, according to his speech posted on the Internet.
The charges against him were mostly based on articles copied by vesti.uz that came from Russian news agencies as well as an independent website on Central Asia, Ferghana.ru.
The trial was closed to the media and the precise nature of the alleged slander was unclear.
The United States and the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) last month expressed concern over the charges brought against Berezovsky and another journalist, Voice of America reporter Abdumalik Boboyev.
Boboyev went on trial last week over the charges of slandering authorities and endangering public order.
"The use of the criminal justice system to punish journalists for freely expressed views is an infringement of Uzbekistan's voluntary OSCE commitments and undoubtedly has a chilling effect on journalists throughout the country," the statement by the US mission to the OSCE said.
© 2010 AFP