19 September 1997


Trial of journalist Yryspek Omurzakov resumes

Incident details

Yryspek Omurzakov


legal action

(CPJ/IFEX) - On 18 September 1997, the trial of Yryspek Omurzakov, a
journalist with the opposition weekly "Res Publika", resumed in the Lenin
District Court of Bishkek. Omurzakov was arrested in March 1997 on criminal
charges for allegedly libelling a factory director, an accusation
characterized by his lawyers as politically motivated.

**Updates IFEX alerts dated 12 June, 30 and 21 May, and 26 March1997**

Background Information

The charges against Omurzakov stem from a 14 January article he published in
"Res Publika" criticizing Mikhail Paryshkura, director of the Frunze
Machine-Building Factory in Bishkek, for poor conditions in the factory's
hostel. Paryshkura filed a libelsuit against the journalist on 7 February.
Later, Omurzakov met with Paryshkura and showed him a signed complaint from
108 plantworkers about their living quarters. Paryshkura agreed to withdraw
the suit, but did not do so. The editor-in-chief and journalists from "Res
Publika" brought a copy of the workers' letter to the prosecutor's office,
but he refused to release Omurzakov. The trial opened on 19 May in Bishkek's
Pervomaysky District Court. Paryshkura testified that he would have
withdrawn his complaint if Omurzakov had apologized and the newspaper had
printed a retraction. Omurzakov, however, stood by his story.

Two factory workers who had signed the complaint testified at the trial that
the facts about the hostel in Omurzakov's article were correct. At the
trial, the prosecutor announced that the two workers themselves were charged
with "disseminating deliberately false information" to the journalist and
are co-defendants in the case. The prosecutor demanded a three-year sentence
for Omurzakov. On 21 May, Judge Anarbek Sherikulov sent the case back to the
prosecutor for further investigation, but ordered that Omurzakov remain in
custody. Omurzakov was released by an impromptu court decision on 10 June.

Since February 1997, Omurzakov has been the target of repeated warnings from
law-enforcement officials for his writing. In July 1996, Omurzakov was given
a two-year suspended sentence for allegedly insulting the president in a
leaflet distributed at a public rally (see IFEX alerts).

Recommended Action

Send appeals to authorities:

  • strongly condemning any criminal prosecution for libel
  • indicating that not a single journalist is currently imprisoned in
    Europe or the Commonwealth of Independent States for "insult" or "libel" of
    a public figure
  • expressing particular concern that, according to Omurzakov's interview
    with Radio Liberty on 18 September, officials claim to have lost court
    documents, particularly testimony from witnesses
  • expressing further concern that officials of the machine-building
    factory have reportedly warned workers who live at the hostel that they will
    lose their rooms if they testify on behalf of Omurzakov
  • pointing out that landmark rulings of the European Court of Human Rights
    have limited protection for public officials in libel cases in the interest
    of safeguarding freedom of expression in a democracy
  • urging them to use their good offices to ensure that Kyrgyzstan's
    judicial system conforms with the democratic principles of the region and
    the universal norms for press freedom, to secure Omurzakov's immediate
    release, and to guarantee that all judicial and extra-judicial harassment of
    Omurzakov cease

    Appeals To

    His Excellency Askar Akayev
    PresidentKyrgyzskaya Respublika
    720003 g. Bishkek
    Prospekt Chuy, 205
    Dom pravitelstva
    Fax: +7 3312 21 86 27

    Ministry of Foreign Affairs Kyrgyzskaya Respublika
    720003 g. Bishkekul. Abdumomunova, 205
    Ministerstvo inostrannykh del
    Fax: +7 3312 22 57 35

    Please copy appeals to the source if possible.

  • Source

    Committee to Protect Journalists
    330 7th Ave., 11th Floor
    New York, NY 10001
    info (@) cpj.org
    Fax:+1 212 4659568

    IFEX members working in this country 2

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