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Abakan journalist charged with libel for disclosing police colonel’s deception

8 February 2013 

Source: (info)
President of the Glasnost Defence Foundation (GDF), Aleksei Simonov, submitted a request to the Khakassia Prosecutor's Office on 7 February to force the republic's law-enforcement agencies to uphold the law in the investigation of a criminal case against the editor of the New Focus online magazine, Mikhail Afanasyev, who stands accused of libel for words that, according to a court ruling, are true. 

The criminal case against him for slander and insulting a representative of authority was instigated by the Abakan investigative committee (in Khakassia), according to the Abakansk Deputy Chief of Police, Colonel Alexandr Zlotnikov, writes Kasparov.Ru correspondent Sofya Mikitik.

In October 2012, relatives of the young people detained approached both Afanasyev and the journalist. When one of them was being removed from the prison to an unknown location, the journalist began to film what was happening on camera. He was arrested and a report drawn up the offence. During examination of the documentation in court, Zlotnikov said that Afanasyev had raised a disturbance during a prisoner escort and had pushed two pregnant women under the wheels of a police car. The women denied Zlotnikov's statement. Assessing the evidence in the case, the court itself echoed: "In addition, it has been established that no pregnant person was pushed under the wheels of a car."

After the ruling had taken effect Afanasyev wrote, "You're a liar, Colonel Zlotnikov", referring to the unreliable testimony of the colonel in court. Following this the journalist was prosecuted for libel, with the investigation concluding that the journalist insulted the colonel whilst he was on duty. In his request, Simonov expressed his conviction that the public prosecutor was aware of the circumstances of the criminal case against Afanasyev, and asked him to exercise the right to force other departments to uphold the law. In addition, the head of the Glasnost Defence Foundation will be asking the Khakassia public prosecutor to find out whether Zlotnikov has incurred a disciplinary punishment at the very least for giving false testimony in court.

Even though the Abakan court did establish that the journalist did not jump onto the bonnet of a police car, was not trying to start a fight, did not hit the window of a car, and did not push women under the wheels, it was nevertheless decided that Afanasyev had sat down on the bonnet and held on to the car with his hands and, following his arrest, had resisted a police officer and grabbed him by his official uniform.

The court gave the journalist three days of administrative arrest.

The judge wrote in his ruling that a number of contradictions in the testimony and case documentation had come to light, but that he had not interpreted them the defendant's favour, and said that they did not impact on the nature of administrative offence.