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Kazakhstan: Journalist In Rape Trial Dismisses Lawyers

Almaty, 24 January 2003 (RFE/RL) -- Prominent Kazakh journalist Sergei Duvanov, who is accused of raping an underage girl, has dismissed his lawyers, saying he no longer wishes to participate in the "farcical" trial against him. Duvanov, the editor of a human rights watch magazine, is accused of raping a 14-year-old girl.

Lawyer and human rights defender Yevgenii Zhovtis said Duvanov dismissed his lawyers yesterday after a court turned down a petition to drop the charges on the grounds of lack of evidence.

Duvanov's supporters say the trial against him is an example of media harassment in Kazakhstan.

Police arrested Duvanov in October as he was preparing to travel to the United States to discuss corruption and media freedoms in Kazakhstan.

He was already under investigation for allegedly insulting "the honor and dignity" of Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev after writing a series of articles critical of the president.