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Tatarstan President In Court For Defamation Trial

Tatar President Mintimer Shaimiyev
KAZAN, Tatarstan -- Tatar President Mintimer Shaimiyev has appeared in the Tatar capital's Kirov district court to testify in a criminal case against his former spokesman, RFE/RL's Tatar-Bashkir Service reports.

Shaimiyev gave testimony on August 10 during his appearance against Irek Murtazin, who was his spokesman from 1999-2002.

Murtazin, who was hospitalized after being severely beaten by unknown attackers outside his apartment in December, is being charged with libel, invasion of privacy, and fomenting ethnic hatred.

An author and prominent opposition blogger since he stopped working for Shaimiyev, published "Mintimer Shaimiyev: The Last President of Tatarstan" last year. Prosecutors say he libeled the president in the book and violated his privacy.

Murtazin also wrote in his blog last year that Shaimiyev may have died last year while vacationing in Turkey because he was gone for so long and there were no reports of his whereabout in the local media. Shaimiyev said at the trial that he will not consider dismissing the charges against Murtazin because "everyone should be held responsible for defamation, and we are all equal before the law, including journalists."