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Independent Bashkir Journalists Have Jail Terms Reduced

Bashkir journalists Ayrat Dilmukhametov (left) and Robert Zagreev
Bashkir journalists Ayrat Dilmukhametov (left) and Robert Zagreev
UFA, Russia -- The prison terms of two Bashkir journalists sentenced for propagating extremism and igniting interethnic hatred have been reduced by the Supreme Court in the Russian republic of Bashkortostan, RFE/RL's Tatar-Bashkir Service reports.

Vsevolod Lebedintsev, the lawyer for journalists Airat Dilmukhametov and Robert Zahreev, said on October 6 that Dilmukhametov's prison term was shortened from 6 years to 3 1/2 years and Zahreev's from 3 1/2 years to six months.

Lebedintsev said he does not plan to appeal the ruling at the Russian Supreme Court.

On April 20, the Kirov district court in the Bashkir capital of Ufa found Dilmukhametov and Zahreev guilty of propagating extremism and igniting interethnic hatred through statements that were included in articles that they wrote.

The two journalists then appealed their verdicts at the Bashkir Supreme Court.

They insist their case was politically motivated.

Lebedintsev said that, in light of the decision, Zahreev will be released in a week because of time already served. Dilmukhametov has served one-third of his shortened term, which makes him eligible now to apply for early release on parole.

Lebedintsev said that he will begin working to secure Dilmukhametov's early release.

Sources close to Bashkortostan's penitentiary system told RFE/RL that inmates where the two men are imprisoned treat them with great respect because they are considered to be political prisoners.

Dilmukhametov, who was editor of the opposition Bashkir weekly "Maidan," was arrested on April 16, 2009.

Zahreev, chief editor of the independent newspaper "For Local Self-Governing," was officially charged with helping Dilmukhametov to write the alleged extremist and inflammatory articles in September 2009. He was then told to stay in Ufa until the investigation into the case was completed.

Read more in Tatar here