Sergei Duvanov

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Duvanov, a prominent 49-year-old journalist known for his criticism of Kazakh authorities, was arrested on suspicion of raping a minor. The journalist was officially charged on November 6, 2002.

Duvanov denied the rape accusation, saying it was a government effort to discredit him. The charges came just as Duvanov was preparing to leave for the United States, where he was scheduled to give a series of talks at Washington, D.C.- and New York-based think tanks about political conditions in Kazakhstan.

Shortly after his arrest, Duvanov went on a hunger strike to protest his detention. He ended the strike after 13 days, when prison authorities began to force-feed him. His trial, which began on December 24, 2002, ended on January 28, 2003. Duvanov was convicted and sentenced to three-and-a-half years in prison.

Duvanov’s defense team appealed the conviction, but the appeal was rejected by the Almaty Regional Court in March 2003, and by the Supreme Court in November 2003.

Duvanov, who wrote for opposition-financed Web sites and was 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, 2002, 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, 2002, the General Prosecutor’s Office charged him with “infringing the honor and dignity of the president”–a criminal offense punishable by a fine or a maximum three-year prison sentence–after he accused President Nazarbayev of corruption in an article. Authorities later dropped that criminal case against him without any explanation.

On December 29, 2003, the Kapchagay District Court ruled that Duvanov could serve the rest of his term in a low-security labor camp and would be transferred to the facility in January 2004.