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RFE/RL Welcomes Babitsky Release, Deplores Guilty Verdict


(Prague, Czech Republic -- September 4, 2004) Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty correspondent Andrei Babitsky was released from jail in Moscow today after appealing yesterday's sentence by a lower court judge.

A Moscow administrative court today overturned a magistrate's decision to sentence Babitsky to five days in jail, but let stand the guilty verdict against him. Instead of a jail sentence, Babitsky was fined 1000 rubles (roughly $34).

RFE/RL President Tom Dine said he received the news with mixed feelings: "I am pleased that Andrei is not sitting in jail. But I'm appalled that these trumped-up charges were allowed to stand and Andrei had to pay a fine. "

Following his release, Babitsky said: "I have no doubt that yesterday's verdict was overturned only because of immediate pressure from outside, like the statement by the president of our corporation, Mr. Thomas Dine. I would like to express my gratitude to all who reacted so quickly, expressing their concern or even disagreement with regard to the ridiculous charges levelled against me in an attempt to keep me from doing my job as a journalist in North Ossetia."

Babitsky was taken into custody at Moscow's Vnukovo airport on September 2, as he was about to board a flight for the Caucasus. He was found guilty yesterday (September 3) of "minor hooliganism" and sentenced to five days in a special detention center.

Dine said yesterday that "Andrei is one of RFE/RL's most dedicated and courageous journalists. I am confident that the charges against him are completely unfounded and baseless. This action of the Russian authorities is dismayingly reminiscent of events four years ago, when Babitsky disappeared for nearly two months in Russia and was released from detention only after a wave of international protests."
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