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Supreme Court Judges File Lawsuits Against Three Tajik Newspapers

DUSHANBE -- Three judges from the Tajik Supreme Court and a Dushanbe court filed lawsuits against three independent newspapers today, RFE/RL's Tajik Service reports.

The judges said three weeklies: "Ozodagon," "Farazh," and "Asia-Plus" printed quotations in their most recent editions from a press conference in which a lawyer accused the judges of issuing unfair punishments.

Two weeks ago, lawyer Solehjon Juraev invited journalists to a press conference at which he said Judges Fakhriddin Dodometov, Nur Nurov, and Ulughbek Mamadshoev had sentenced a group of 33 businessmen from the northern city of Isfara to long prison sentences despite weak evidence of their crimes.

The judges said today the newspapers did not ask them to comment and printed biased statements that have no basis. They asked for 5.5 million somons ($1.26 million) as compensation for the moral damage caused by the comments in the articles.

Judge Mamadshoev told RFE/RL that he filed the lawsuit as a private citizen because he thinks the newspapers ignored the media law.

Zafar Sufi, the chief editor of "Ozodagon," said the press conference was, of course, one-sided but the newspapers are prepared to also print responses from the judges.

The latest court cases against the newspapers follow two others against independent publications in the last week. Some analysts say the pressure being applied to the media is related to the February 28 parliamentary elections.