The U.S. Embassy in Chisinau has said it remains "deeply concerned" by the arrest of an independent journalist in Moldova's separatist Transdniester region, RFE/RL's Moldovan Service reports.
Ernest Vardanean, a freelance journalist from the Transdniester capital, Tiraspol, who works for the Novy Region 2 news agency, was arrested on April 7 and has been indicted on charges of high treason. If found guilty, he could spend 12 to 20 years in jail.
In a press release, the embassy said it is worried by the conditions in which Vardanean is being held and by the fact that he and his lawyer were not allowed to attend the first court hearing earlier this week.
The embassy said its concerns are shared by the European Union and international organizations. It said Vardanean's case shows "a more general problem" of pressure and intimidation of civil society in the Transdniester region.
U.S. Ambassador to Moldova Asif J. Chaudhry met last week with Transdniester separatist leader Igor Smirnov in Tiraspol and discussed Vardanean's case, among other issues. According to the official press in Transdniester, Smirnov assured Chaudhry that Vardanean will get "a fair trial."