Prague, 19 September 1997 (RFE/RL) -- The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) sent a letter to Kyrgyzstan's President Askar Akayev today urging him to intervene in the criminal libel trial of a leading opposition journalist.
The case concerns Yryspek Omurzakov, who was first charged with libel at the start of this year for writing an article criticizing a local factory director for his shabby workers' accomodations. Omurzakov was arrested and his trial opened in May. The proceedings was adjourned after factory workers interviewed in Omurzakov's article testified in his favor. But the trial has now restarted.
Omurzakov recently told RFE/RL that factory workers have been warned not to testify for him again or risk losing their accomodations. Omurzakov's lawyers have called the whole trial a politically-motivated harassment campaign. The press watchdog CPJ, in its letter, urges Akayev to use his influence to see to it that Kyrgyzstan does not become "the only country in the former Soviet Union and Europe to send a journalist to jail on libel charges for his writings."