30 September 1997


Journalist Rysbek Omurzakov sentenced to three years in prison

Incident details

Rysbek Omurzakov



(CPJ/IFEX) - On 29 September 1997, a district court in Bishkek
sentenced Rysbek Omurzakov, a reporter for the opposition weekly
"Res Publika", to three years in prison for libelling the manager
of a state-owned factory. The ruling makes Kyrgyzstan the only
country in Europe and the former Soviet Union to have sent a
journalist to prison on libel charges for his writings.

**Updates IFEX alerts dated 19 September, 12 June, 30 and 21 May,
and 26 March 1997**

Lenin District Court Judge Usen Sarymsakov declared Omurzakov
guilty of criminal libel under Article 128 of the criminal code
of the Kyrgyz Republic.

Omurzakov said he will appeal to a higher court.

Background Information

Mikhail Paryshkura, the manager of the Frunze Machine-Building
Factory, filed criminal libel charges against Omurzakov on 7
February for an article published in "Res Publika" in which the
journalist described the poor living conditions in the factory's
hostel. Omurzakov's lawyers called the charges
politically-motivated. Omurzakov was arrested in March despite a
pledge made by Paryshkura weeks before to drop the charges. He
made the promise after the journalist presented him with a
petition signed by 108 employees of the Frunze plant about the
substandard conditions in their living quarters. After his
arrest, prosecutors refused to release Omurzakov even after the
editors of "Res Publika" showed them the workers' petition.
The trial opened on 19 May in the Pervomaisky District Court in
Bishkek. Paryshkura said he would drop the charges if Omurzakov
apologized and the newspaper published a retraction. The reporter
and his editors stood by their story, however. Two factory
workers, who testified that Omurzakov's article had been
accurate, were in turn charged with "disseminating deliberately
false information" to Omurzakov and were named as co-defendants.
On 21 May, the judge sent the case back to the prosecutor for
re-investigation. Omurzakov was released from jail on 10 June
pending trial following protests by CPJ and other international
organizations. His trial resumed on 18 September. His
co-defendants, Dzhybek Akmatova and Gulina Ibraimova, were also
convicted and received a six-month sentence, but they were
pardoned under an 15 August amnesty (see IFEX alerts).

Recommended Action

Send appeals to authorities:

  • strongly condemning the libel conviction handed down against
    Rysbek Omurzakov
  • 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 overturn his
    conviction, and to guarantee that all judicial and extra-judicial
    harassment of Omurzakov cease

    Appeals To

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

    Ministry of Foreign Affairs
    Kyrgyzskaya Respublika
    720003 g. Bishkek
    ul. 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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