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Kazakhstan: OSCE Concerned By Charges Against Journalist

Almaty, 7 November 2002 (RFE/RL) -- The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe said today it was concerned about the events surrounding Sergei Duvanov (pictured), an opposition journalist charged today with rape. Prosecutors in Kazakhstan formally charged Duvanov with the rape of a 14-year-old girl. If convicted, Duvanov could face up to 10 years in jail.

But OSCE representative Freimut Duve said the pattern of incidents involving Duvanov, including the rape charges, trigger concerns that the case may be politically motivated.

Duvanov was investigated by Kazakhstan secret police earlier this year after he published articles on the Internet alleging that the country's president, family, and immediate circle were guilty of corruption. In August, Duvanov was beaten by unknown assailants.

His detention on rape charges came the same day he was scheduled to travel to the United States to speak about democracy and human rights in Kazakhstan.

Duvanov is on a dry hunger strike -- in which he refuses food and water -- and his lawyers say his health is deteriorating quickly and that he is unable to stand.

Duve warned the Kazakh authorities that they bear full responsibility for Duvanov's life while under arrest.

In a letter given to his lawyer yesterday, Duvanov expressed his thanks to all the people who refuse to believe the charges made against him. He also wrote that he would rather die than to let Kazakh officials to "ruin" his personal dignity and honor. "I am innocent and pure in front of God and my own dignity," he wrote.

Some of the leaders of the Committee for Sergei Duvanov's Release -- Nurbolat Masanov, Gulzhan Ergaliyeva (the deputy chairman of the People's Congress Party), and Aleksandr Skryl (editor of a weekly bulletin on human rights in Kazakhstan) announced yesterday that they had started a hunger strike in protest of the arrest of Duvanov.