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Transdniestrian Journalist Charged With Treason, Espionage

TIRASPOL, Moldova -- The wife of an independent journalist says he has been arrested in Moldova's breakaway Transdniester region and charged with espionage and high treason, RFE/RL's Moldovan Service reports.

Ernest Vardanean's wife told RFE/RL that he was detained by several men near their house in Tiraspol on April 7. She said her husband could face up to 20 years in jail if found guilty.

Vardanean is well-known in Moldova as an independent journalist whose articles and commentaries are often critical of officials in both Chisinau and Tiraspol.

Ion Manole, the chairman of the Promo-Lex human rights organization, says that Vardanean's arrest is a warning to all nongovernmental organizations working in Tiraspol.

The chief of Moldova's Bureau for Reintegration, Ion Stavile, told RFE/RL that the arrest is an extraordinary case. He added that Chisinau is demanding the immediate release of Vardanean.

Stavile said Moldovan officials will urge media-rights organizations and others to become involved in Vardanean's case.

Grigory Volovoi, the chairman of the Transdniester Fund for Human Rights, says that Vardanean's arrest is a clear indication of the weakness of the Transdniestrian authorities.

Vardanean was scheduled to start writing a blog for RFE/RL's Moldovan Service this week.

The Transdniester region has a population of some 540,000, most of them ethnic Russians and Ukrainians. It declared independence from Moldova in 1990 and fought a brief war with Moldovan forces two years later. It is not recognized internationally.