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Tatar Blogger Sentenced To Prison Term

Irek Murtazin was sentenced for "instigating hatred"
Irek Murtazin, a blogger and former press secretary of Tatar President Mintimer Shaimiyev, has been sentenced to 21 months in prison for libeling his former boss and "instigating hatred and hostility" toward a social group, RFE/RL's Tatar-Bashkir Service reports.

Murtazin, 45, posted an online report in September 2008 speculating that Shaimiyev had died while on an extended vacation in Turkey.

In addition, Shaimiyev, 72, had accused Murtazin of "instigating hatred" with certain passages in his 2006 book, "Shaimiyev: The Last President Of Tatarstan."

Murtazin told RFE/RL that the trial against him was a "theater of the absurd" and that he will appeal the verdict.

Shaimiyev also had accused Murtazin of breaking privacy laws by including personal details about his life in his book. That charge was dismissed by the court.

Murtazin told RFE/RL that the verdict by the court sets a dangerous precedent in which "any word of criticism" against a Russian leader could be used to file criminal charges against someone.