New York, October 5, 2000 — A verdict is expected tomorrow in the four-day long trial of Russian radio journalist Andrei Babitsky, according to local and international reports. Babitsky, a veteran correspondent for Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty’s Russian Service, is charged with carrying a false Azeri passport. The trial is taking place in the republic of Dagestan, which borders Chechnya.
Babitsky has pleaded not guilty. He told the court that he only carried the document because it was thrust upon him by the armed men who held him captive for three weeks in Chechnya earlier this year.
Earlier today, the court heard closing arguments from prosecutor Rashidkhan Magomedov, who asked the court to impose a fine of 150 months in salary at the minimum wage (19,800 rubles, about US$700).
In its closing arguments Babitsky’s defense team argued that the journalist only used a false document because his life was in danger. In February, members of the Russian security services who had detained Babitsky handed him over to purported Chechen rebels, whom Babitsky later claimed were loyal to Moscow.
“This trial has done nothing to change our view that the charges against Babitsky are intended to punish him for his independent reporting,” said CPJ deputy director Joel Simon. “We believe that Babitsky should never have been tried in the first place. Our hope now is that the judge will be persuaded by the defense’s arguments and dismiss the charges.”