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U.S. Reiterates Concern Over Arrest Of Transdniester Journalist

Ernest Vardanean confessed to spying in a videotaped message.

Ernest Vardanean confessed to spying in a videotaped message.

The United States has reiterated its concern for a journalist held in Moldova's separatist Transdniester region on charges of high treason, RFE/RL's Moldovan Service reports.

The head of the U.S. mission to the OSCE, Ambassador Ian Kelly, today asked the OSCE's Permanent Council in Vienna to continue working to ensure that Ernest Vardanean's rights are respected.

Kelly said reports about the conditions in which Vardanean is being held and that he has been denied the right to choose his own legal counsel are "worrying."

Vardanean, 33, is an independent journalist based in Transdniester's capital, Tiraspol. He was arrested on April 7 and accused of spying for Moldova's secret services.

Transdniester's official television channel aired a videotape on May 11 in which Vardanean confessed to spying for the Moldovan secret service. Officials in Chisinau and Vardanean's family have said that the confession was probably made under extreme pressure.

If found guilty, Vardanean could be sentenced to up to 20 years in prison.

His wife, Irina, has appealed to Russian government officials to intercede on her husband's behalf.