Prosecutors reopen case of abducted journalist

New York, April 8, 2005—Prosecutors in capital of Minsk, have reopened the inquiry into the July 2000 abduction of Dmitry Zavadsky, a 29-year-old cameraman for the Russian public network ORT, according to the Minsk-based human rights group Charter 97.

Olga Zavadskaya, whose son is presumed dead after disappearing nearly five years ago, received a letter from the prosecutor-general’s office yesterday, acknowledging the need to “carry out additional investigations,” local reports said. Zavadskaya had filed a formal petition with prosecutors in August 2004 in an effort to reopen the investigation, which had been suspended in March of that year.

“I think reopening Dima’s case is a regular exercise for Belarusian authorities,” Svetlana Zavadsakya, wife of the abducted journalist, told CPJ in a telephone interview. “The reopening is only for show, in my opinion,” she added, noting that a United Nations resolution on Belarus’ human rights record is to be heard in Geneva this month.

Prosecutors had reopened the Zavadsky investigation previously, in December 2003, just two days before the Strasbourg, France-based Council of Europe, a pan-European human rights monitoring organization, released a report alleging that high-level government officials were involved in the journalist’s disappearance and its subsequent cover-up.

Zavadsky disappeared on July 7, 2000, after he failed to show up for a scheduled meeting with a longtime friend and colleague at the Minsk airport. Colleagues and relatives told reporters that the cameraman had received threatening phone calls after returning from Chechnya where he had worked on a documentary about the war.

“We are urging Belarusian authorities to take genuine steps to resolve the long-stalled case of Dmitry Zavadsky’s disappearance,” said CPJ’s Executive Director Ann Cooper. “Journalists in Belarus will continue to work in a climate of fear until those responsible for their colleague’s abduction and presumed death are brought to justice.”

Read more about Zavadsky’s case.