(Washington, DC--October 6, 2000) RFE/RL President Thomas A. Dine said in Moscow today that he was "disappointed by a judge's decision to find Andrei Babitsky guilty of the charges the Russian authorities had brought against him."
Dine's comments came immediately after a judge in Daghestan first found the RFE/RL correspondent guilty of violating Russian passport regulations, imposed an 8700 ruble ($300) fine, and then dropped that penalty under the terms of a Russian amnesty program adopted earlier this year.
The RFE/RL president said that Babitsky's case is not over and that he and the station will "continue to pursue justice in this case." He said that Babitsky's lawyers would appeal the verdict first to the Daghestan Supreme Court and then, if necessary, to the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation.
Babitsky's legal travails began last January when Russian officials arrested him after complaining about his reporting on the war in Chechnya--reporting that had won him praise internationally as balanced and objective. They then claimed to have handed him over to Chechen rebels in exchange for several Russians prisoners of war, an exchange that Babitsky has said never took place and was only staged for the cameras.
After keeping Babitsky in detention for 40 days, Russian officials released him in Daghestan after planting false documents on him. It is these documents which formed the basis of the charges against him, and that is the ostensible reason why he was tried in Daghestan. Following his detention, Babitsky was released on his own recognizance but restricted to Moscow until August.