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Former Presidential Spokesman Freed From Prison In Tatarstan

Irek Murtazin
KAZAN, Russia -- A former presidential spokesman in Tatarstan who was jailed for libeling his former boss has been released on parole, RFE/RL's Tatar-Bashkir Service reports.

Opposition journalist Irek Murtazin, who served as press spokesman to former Tatarstan President Mintimer Shaimiyev, was released late on January 31.

Murtazin, 46, was sentenced in November 2009 to 21 months in prison on charges of libeling Shaimiyev and "instigating hatred and hostility" toward a social group.

Murtazin wrote on his blog in September 2008 that Shaimiyev may have died while on an extended vacation in Turkey because he was gone for so long and there were no reports of his whereabouts in the local media.

'Instigated Hatred'

Shaimiyev accused Murtazin of violating privacy laws by including details of his private life in his book "Shaimiyev: The Last President Of Tatarstan." Shaimiyev claimed certain passages in the book, which was published in 2006, "instigated hatred."

Murtazin told RFE/RL the decision by the Mendeleyev regional court to free him came as a surprise.

"As I was falling asleep on the freezing floor of the solitary cell, with a light bulb burning, next to a stinking toilet, with mice running around, I wondered how many more nights like this awaited me. And then, all of a sudden, [I was released]," he said.

Murtazin said his release became possible thanks to the efforts of his lawyer, Yury Zak. Zak, last month, also managed to secure the early release of Aygul Makhmutova, a Russian journalist jailed three years ago on charges of fraud and extortion


Murtazin pled not guilty and said he hoped the Russian Supreme Court would acquit him. The conditions of his parole include reporting to the authorities twice a month.

Murtazin told RFE/RL he plans to finish a book that he started writing in prison and resume his social and political activities.

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