Journalist arrested in case stemming from Chechnya coverage

New York, April 3, 2006—Moscow police have arrested journalist Boris Stomakhin after he failed to appear for a June 2004 trial on criminal charges of inciting inter-ethnic hatred in news reports about the war in Chechnya.

Stomakhin edits the independent Moscow monthly newspaper Radikalnaya Politika (Radical Politics) and contributes to the pro-independence Chechnya news Web site Kavkaz-Center, where he has strongly criticized Russian authorities for human rights abuses in the southern republic of Chechnya.

Stomakhin was injured on March 21 when he fell out of the window of his fourth floor Moscow apartment as he was trying to elude police seeking to arrest him on an outstanding warrant, according to local press reports. An ambulance brought Stomakhin to Moscow City Hospital No. 20, where he was diagnosed with a fractured ankle and a back injury.

Moscow police arrested Stomakhin the next day in connection with the criminal case. First filed in December 2003, the case alleges that Radikalnaya Politika incited ethnic hatred in articles about the Chechen war. Stomakhin was transferred to a prison ward in the hospital and then to Matroskaya Tishina prison in Moscow on Friday, the journalist’s mother, Regina Leonidovna, told the Committee to Protect Journalists in a telephone interview today.

Snezhanna Kolobova, an investigator in the Moscow’s North-Eastern Circuit prosecutor’s office, declined to elaborate on the charges or specify the Radikalnaya Politika articles when contacted by CPJ.

The Moscow human rights news agency Prima reported that the case was prompted by Communist party member Valentina Lavrova’s allegation that Radikalnaya Politika journalists were “Chechen bandits.” Lavrova sent a complaint to parliamentarian and Communist party member Victor Zorkalcev, who forwarded the appeal to the prosecutor general’s office.

Police officers raided Stomakhin’s apartment on April 12, 2004, and confiscated his computer, copies of Radikalnaya Politika, computer disks, books, leaflets, and other editorial material related to the war. Police requested that Stomakhin come to the prosecutor’s office for interrogation the following day. Stomakhin underwent some questioning on April 13, 2004, but later refused to make further contact with law enforcement officials, local press reported.

Prosecutors put Stomakhin on an international wanted list after he failed to appear for a trial in June 2004, the journalist’s mother told CPJ. Stomakhin had fled to Ukraine, where he unsuccessfully sought political asylum before returning to Moscow, according to local press reports.