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Duvanov "Presumed Guilty" By Kazakh Government?

(Washington, DC--November 18, 2002) The daughter of Kazakh journalist Sergei Duvanov told an audience at RFE/RL last week that her father is innocent of charges recently brought against him by the Kazakh government and appealed for international help in securing his release. Denissa Duvanova, speaking on her father's behalf, said, "The impression I have is that there is a presumption of guilt about my father, not the presumption of innocence."

Duvanova, currently working on a Ph.D. at the Ohio State University, also described the August 2002 attack by unknown assailants on her father, which left him severely beaten and with a cross carved into his chest. During the attack, Duvanov was warned that if he continued to investigate government corruption, he would face even more severe punishment. The current charges of rape, Duvanova said, appear to be the fulfillment of that threat: "And now, they did worse. They crippled his reputation--his good name--which I was always proud of." Duvanova said that she wants more humane treatment for her father, who is in poor health due to the August attack and recent forced feedings in prison; a transparent investigation of the charges; access for the defense team to information; and ultimately justice for her father.

Charles Both, a U.S.-based lawyer on Duvanov's defense team, called the rape charges against Duvanov "insidious" and declared, "It's not the person that people know Sergei to be." In Both's view, the charges against Duvanov lack physical evidence (determined with DNA tests), lack transparency, and presume guilt. Both also stated that Duvanov is being unjustifiably held in pre-trial confinement. "There is no reason to have pre-trial detention of this man. He's not a flight risk, he's not a risk of a person who would be leaving Kazakhstan, he's not strong enough to leave even if he could get a visa and could find himself a way [out]." argued Both.

Peter Zalmayev, a representative of the International League for Human Rights who recently returned from Almaty, Kazakhstan, said the common people on the street do not believe the charges against Duvanov. According to Zalmayev, Kazakhstan's recent history is distinguished by the persecution of journalists and "all voices of dissent and inquiry." Such persecution, as described by Zalmayev, includes beatings, expulsions, and disappearances of individuals. The persecution of Duvanov is yet another addition to Kazakhstan's history of human rights violations. Echoing Duvanova's comments, Zalmayev said, "I do not believe they will ever be able to cripple his spirit, but they're trying to cripple [Duvanov's] reputation." Zalmayev concluded by saying that the international community must stand in defense of Duvanov in order to prevent similar abuses against "others in the democratic community" of Kazakhstan, announcing that his organization will award Sergei Duvanov its "Defender's Award" on December 9, 2002, a decision that was made before Duvanov's recent arrest.