November 10, 2010
Mr. Vladimir Strelchenko
Mayor of Khimki
Khimki, ul. Moskovskaya, 15
Dear Mayor Strelchenko,
While leading a delegation to Moscow from the Committee to Protect Journalists in late September, I had the opportunity to meet with Mikhail Beketov in the Moscow hospital where he was being treated. It was a very moving experience for me, one I will never forget. As I am sure you know, Beketov was brutally beaten in November 2008 by several men who left him to die in the freezing cold. As a result, he lost a leg and several fingers and suffered serious brain injuries. Today, he is unable to speak.
Last week I saw photographs of him that greatly distressed me. He was being loaded onto an ambulance, then wheeled into a courtroom to face charges of criminal defamation brought by you. I was frankly sickened to learn that this man who was nearly killed in retaliation for his work, who can no longer walk and speak, is being prosecuted while his attackers walk free.
Today, I was outraged to learn that not only have you not stopped this travesty of a lawsuit, but because of you Beketov is now a convicted criminal.
Mayor Strelchenko, Mikhail Beketov criticized you. He was forceful in his opinions, and I'm sure you did not like being attacked in the media. But it is the responsibility of those who hold public office to accept criticism. This is the very essence of democratic government.
Beketov and his defense team are going to appeal today's verdict, but the process will without a doubt be taxing for them. I urge you to immediately drop this unwarranted and cruel complaint against Mikhail Beketov. Your insistence on pursuing it does infinitely more damage to your personal reputation and your great nation's international reputation than anything Mikhail Beketov ever said or wrote.
Director, Committee to Protect Journalists