Almaty, 28 January 2003 (RFE/RL) -- Kazakh opposition journalist Sergei Duvanov was sentenced today to a jail term of 3 1/2 years on a charge of rape. Our correspondent in Almaty says the judge at the closed trial dismissed the original charge of rape of a minor, saying the 14-year-old victim looked older than her age, and Duvanov may not have known she was under the legal age of consent.
Police arrested Duvanov in October one day before he was to travel to the United States to discuss corruption and the state of media freedom 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.
Long before the trial started last December, Nazarbaev said Duvanov was guilty and must not be freed.
Last week, Duvanov dismissed his defense attorneys, making it clear he believed his trial had a predetermined outcome. Duvanov's supporters and human rights organizations say the trial against him is an example of media harassment in Kazakhstan.
See "Oppositionists Claim Government Behind Rape Charge Against Journalist,"
for more on Duvanov's case.