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Huge Fine For Kazakh Weekly Over Bank Story

ALMATY -- The Medeu district court in Almaty has ruled that Kazakhstan's "Respublika" weekly should pay a huge fine to BTA Bank, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reports.

The court ordered the newspaper to print an apology to the bank and pay 60 million tenges (almost $400,000) to BTA as "compensation for moral damage."

The court ruled that a story run by "Respublika" caused a run on deposits that lost the bank 6.8 billion tenges ($45 million) in deposits, lawyer Sergei Utkin told Reuters.

Utkin said "Respublika" was unable to pay the money and would challenge the ruling.

Directors of the BTA Bank filed the lawsuit against the weekly, accusing it of giving "false information about the bank's activities" in the article printed on March 6.

The newspaper's deputy editor in chief, Oksana Makushina, says the case is politically motivated, and that the verdict will means the newspaper's closure.

Last month, the newspaper's editors told journalists that they could move their operation to the Internet if they lost the case.

Earlier this summer, the opposition newspaper "Taszharghan" (The Stonebreaker) had to stop publication after it lost a similar libel case.