ASTANA -- Hearings have begun in a libel lawsuit filed by the father of Kazakh Prime Minister Karim Masimov against a human rights defender and media outlets, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reports.
Qazhymqan Masimov, the premier's father, is suing rights activist Talas Saghymbaev for libel and demanding 10 million tenges ($66,800) from him for moral damages.
He also wants the weekly "Vremya" and KTK television to acknowledge that reports they published and broadcast about Qazhymqan Masimov's debts in 2009 -- citing Saghymbaev as the source -- were false.
Saghymbaev told RFE/RL on September 23 that he received complaints from at least 16 people in Kazakhstan who claim the premier's father owes them significant amounts of money for goods and services they provided to his HAS-ER KZ company.
Saghymbaev said all the information he shared with "Vremya" and KTK television was true, and he is therefore not guilty of libel.
Saghymbaev added that he sent 10 letters to President Nursultan Nazarbaev asking him to intervene in the situation.
He also told RFE/RL that Qazhymqan Masimov tried before, in early 2010, to bring a libel suit against him in connection with reports of his debts, but the court threw out the case.
Qazhymqan Masimov was not present at the hearing on September 24. He was represented by lawyer Gulzhan Omarova. Representatives of the two media outlets named in the case were also absent.
Omarova said her client is currently on a business trip and is therefore unable to be present. She said Masimov will attend at least one of the court sessions.
Astana court Judge Miras Satybaldin agreed to Omarova's request on September 23 that representatives of the media outlets should also be present at the trial.
Journalists were admitted to the courtroom but not allowed to film the proceedings. The trial was adjourned until October 5.
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