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RFE/RL Kazakh Reporter, Activist, Sued For Libel

RFE/RL correspondent in Kazakhstan Alima Abdirova
RFE/RL correspondent in Kazakhstan Alima Abdirova
AQTOBE, Kazakhstan -- A rights activist and RFE/RL correspondent in Kazakhstan is being sued for libel after she alleged children at a special needs school were being abused, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reports.

Alima Abdirova is due to appear in court in the western city of Aqtobe on August 27 after the former director of the school took legal action.

Abdirova is being sued as a member of the independent Kazakh Bureau for Human Rights group, and not as a journalist.

The case centers on comments Abdirova made in an article published in a local newspaper in May, where she said children at the Aqtobe boarding school were subject to beatings and neglect,

Irina Dombrovskaya, the school's former director, says Abdirova's comments unfairly portrayed the situation. She is demanding 5 million tenge (some $34,000) for moral damages and 60,000 tenge (some $400) for court costs. Abdirova could also face up to three years in prison if convicted.

Abdirova said the court has ignored the testimony of some witnesses, including that of a former student who alleged violence and other abuses at the school

Abdirova recently has been reporting on security problems in western Kazakhstan where there was a suicide bombing and a clash between security forces and alleged Islamic militants earlier this year.

A regional television station reported on the alleged Islamic militants and showed a photograph of Abdirova with the caption "accomplice" on the screen.

Abdirova said she believes the libel case against her is retaliation by the state security committee (KNB) for her coverage.

Read in Russian here