Independent journalist detained

New York, October 29, 2002—CPJ is deeply concerned that Sergei Duvanov, a prominent 49-year-old journalist known for his criticism of Kazakh authorities, was arrested on October 27 on suspicion of raping a minor.

The journalist, who remains in detention, has been officially charged, the opposition party Democratic Choice of Kazakhstan reported today.

Duvanov has denied the charges, saying the authorities “decided to use the dirtiest, most deceitful means to discredit me in from of the eyes of my Western colleagues…in order to prevent me from writing articles which aren’t pleasing for those who sit in power,” The Associated Press reported.

Duvanov was detained the day before he was to travel to the United States to speak about press freedom conditions in Kazakhstan at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and at the U.S. government­funded Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) office in Washington, D.C. He was also scheduled to speak at the Open Society Institute in New York City.

Duvanov, who writes for opposition-financed Web sites and is the editor-in-chief of a bulletin published by the Almaty-based Kazakhstan Bureau for Human Rights and the Rule of Law, is known for his biting criticism of Kazakhstan’s political system and high-level officials, including Kazakh president Nursultan Nazarbayev. Authorities have frequently harassed him in reprisal for his work.

On the evening of August 28, three unknown assailants beat and stabbed Duvanov in the stairwell of his apartment building, saying of his work, “If you carry on, you’ll be made a total cripple.”

On July 9, the General Prosecutor’s Office charged him with “infringing the honor and dignity of the president,” a criminal offense that carries a penalty of a fine or a maximum three-year prison sentence, after he accused President Nazarbayev of corruption in an article. According to the Democratic Choice of Kazakhstan, authorities later dropped the criminal case against him without any explanation.

“Given the pattern of harassment against Duvanov and the timing of the arrest, just prior to his departure for the United States, we are deeply skeptical of the charges against him,” said CPJ executive director Ann Cooper. “We therefore call on Kazakh officials to make public the evidence against him immediately and to ensure that any proceedings against him are transparent and follow international standards of due process.”