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Kyrgyzstan: Court Convicts Reporters

Bishkek, 23 May 1997 (RFE/RL) - A Bishkek district court today convicted two journalists with the opposition weekly "Res Publica" of having insulted and libeled the president of the State gold company, Dastan Sarugulov, in four articles.

The judge sentenced editor in chief of the weekly "Zamira Sydykova" and correspondent Aleksandr Alinachikov, to 18 months imprisonment.

He ordered a ban on two other co-defendants, editors Marina Sivasheva and Bektash Shamshiev, from engaging in journalism for 18 months. Sivasheva and Shamshiev will each have to pay a fine of 2,000 Som (about $115).

All four journalists were accused on the basis of three clauses on libel and insult of the Criminal Code, adopted in the Soviet period.

Lawyers for the journalists say they will appeal the decisions to the municipal court.

The chairman of the Human Rights Commitee of Kyrgyzstan, Ramazan Dyryldayev, who was a public defender of journalists at the trial, describes the trial as part of the Kyrgyz government's campaign against independent media in the country.

A separate trial of another Res Publica journalist, Yrysbek Omurzakov, who is charged with libeling and insulting a factory director in Bishkek in an article published in January. That trial began on Monday but was halted Wednesday. Omurzakov's lawyer, Yuri Maksimov, told our correspondent that the judge, Anarbek Sherikulov, had been prepared to acquit Omurzakov and two other co-defendants but was forced by the district prosecutor to send the case for reinvestigation.