August 23, 2000
His Excellency Askar Akayev
President of Kyrgyzstan
Via Fax: 011-7-3312-218627
The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) is alarmed by the harsh treatment to which three journalists from the Bishkek independent weekly Delo N were recently subjected by agents of the Ministry of National Security. After a long and brutal interrogation on August 16, one of the journalists was hospitalized with a heart condition, according to CPJ sources.
On July 26 this year, Delo N published an article by Vadim Nochevkin about the closed trial of former government minister Feliks Kulov, who was charged with abuses of power while in office. Citing unnamed sources inside the courtroom, Nochevkin reported the testimony of Boris Poluektov, deputy chairman of the Ministry of National Security. This testimony allegedly included classified information about one of the Ministry’s undercover agents.
After Kulov was acquitted on August 7, the Ministry opened a criminal investigation against Nochevkin and Delo N for divulging state secrets. (Local human rights advocates informed CPJ that this was a highly improper action, since the Ministry is legally barred from investigating cases involving its own interests.)
On August 16, Nochevkin was summoned to the Ministry for questioning, along with Delo N editor-in-chief Viktor Zapolsky and deputy editor Svetlana Krasilnikova. Authorities committed several serious procedural violations in the course of the interrogation, local sources told CPJ. For instance, the journalists were summoned to testify as witnesses in the case in order to dodge the legal requirement that a defense lawyer be present during the interrogation of a suspect.
Zapolsky and Nochevkin were interrogated for five hours each, while Krasilnikova was questioned for over seven hours. During the interrogation, all three journalists were pressured to reveal the sources for Nochevkin’s article. According to Kyrgyz legal experts, it is illegal both for journalists to reveal confidential sources and for authorities to compel journalists to do so.
All reported severe psychological coercion during the interrogation. Additionally, Krasilnikova was deprived of food and water and was allowed only one short break during the entire ordeal.
The next day, Krasilnikova, 49, was placed in the intensive care ward at the National Hospital in Bishkek, suffering from high blood pressure and heart problems. She claims her ailments were triggered by Captain Melis Abdukalykov’s aggressive interrogation; she was also deprived of food and liquids, and there was little air circulation in the interrogation room.
As a nonpartisan organization of journalists dedicated to defending the rights of our colleagues around the world, CPJ protests the Ministry of National Security’s illegal investigation and inhuman treatment of Delo N‘s staff. We urge Your Excellency to ensure that any legal proceedings against Delo N and any other newspaper in Kyrgyzstan are carried out with due process and in accordance with international standards for a free press.
Thank you for your attention to this urgent matter. We await your reply.
Ann K. Cooper