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Bashkir Nationalist Leader Given Suspended Sentence For Attacking Journalists


Artur Idelbayev served as deputy chief of the Bashkir government's directorate for the press in 2009.

Artur Idelbayev served as deputy chief of the Bashkir government's directorate for the press in 2009.

UFA, Russia -- A leader of the Bashkir Youth Union (BYI) has received a three-year suspended sentence after he was found guilty of attacking journalists as a member of the Republic of Bashkortostan's government in 2009, RFE/RL's Tatar-Bashkir Service reports.

Artur Idelbayev, who is on a hunger strike to protest his detention, was to have been nominated last month as the new head of the semi-official, pan-Bashkir Congress (Kurultai). But he was detained in connection with the criminal investigation on February 24 -- just two days before the start of the congress.

Idelbayev remains in custody as a second criminal case against him for financial abuse is being investigated. The abuse is alleged to have taken place when Idelbayev served as deputy chief of the Bashkir government's directorate for the press in 2009.

Idelbayev has been on hunger strike since his arrest and has vowed to remain on it until the charges against him are cleared.

Dozens of other BYI activists, who say Idelbayev's arrest is politically motivated, also went on hunger strike this month but suspended it after Bashkir President Rustem Khamitov called them and pledged to review their demands.

But BYI activist Florid Bagayev told RFE/RL last week the hunger strike would resume in early April on Ufa's central Salavat Square, as none of the group's demands had been met.

Bashkir nationalists enjoyed some privileges under Bashkortostan's previous president, Murtaza Rakhimov. But those ended when he stepped down last year before the end of his term.

Since then, several prominent officials and some BYI activists -- including founding member Idelbayev -- have been harassed or accused and charged with crimes.

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