Almaty, 24 December 2002 (RFE/RL) -- Journalist Sergei Duvanov (pictured) went on trial in Kazakhstan today on rape charges. Duvanov, who has reported extensively on secret Swiss bank accounts reportedly held by Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev, claims the charges are politically motivated. Duvanov is charged with the rape of an underage girl that is alleged to have occurred at his dacha. The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, along with several human rights organizations, have expressed alarm over the arrest of Duvanov, who was taken into custody on 28 October, the day before he was set to leave for the U.S. to deliver a speech to the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington on Kazakhstan's human rights situation and to receive a journalism award from the New York-based International League for Human Rights.
The U.S. has also urged Kazakhstan to give Duvanov a fair trial, and noted that there have been cases of media harassment in the country.
Duvanov edits the weekly bulletin of the International Bureau for Human Rights and the Rule of Law in Almaty. He has been on a hunger strike during his detention and had to be force fed by officials.
This is not the first time an unusual event has taken place before he was scheduled to leave the country. On 28 August, on the eve of an OSCE conference in Warsaw, where Duvanov was scheduled to discuss human rights and the media in Kazakhstan, he was attacked by three masked men outside his Almaty apartment, viciously beaten, and slashed with a knife. Despite his injuries, he attended the meeting.
For more information on Duvanov see: Oppositionists Claim Government Behind Rape Charge Against Journalist