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Vardanean Trial Begins; OSCE Barred.

Moldova - Independent journalist Ernest Vardanean in a televised confession on Tiraspol TV, 11May2010
The Organization for Security and
Cooperation in Europe's (OSCE) mission in Chisinau says its representatives
have been denied access to the high-profile trial of independent Moldovan journalist Ernest Vardanean on espionage charges.

The trial began on November 3 in the separatist capital Tiraspol of Moldova's breakaway region of Transdniester,
RFE/RL's Moldovan Service reports.

Vardanean, 34, was arrested on April 7 in Tiraspol on suspicion of spying for
Moldova's secret services. He was charged with high treason, a crime that
carries a sentence of 12-20 years in prison in the self-styled Transdniester

OSCE mission spokeswoman Rita Naseniece told RFE/RL that three OSCE
representatives had tried to enter the courtroom but were denied access.

Vardanean's wife, Irina, told RFE/RL the courtroom was guarded by armed
soldiers who didn't let anyone enter. Vardanean said she has not been allowed
to see her husband for two months.

She added that the first session of the trial lasted three hours and was
dominated by testimony from witnesses. She saw several journalists who have
worked with her husband entering the courtroom. She declined to name them "for
fear that publicity might hurt them."

Ernest Vardanean, who before his arrest had been tapped for a job as a Moldovan
representative at the United Nations, was shown on Transdniester television in May
confessing from prison to being a Moldovan spy.

His family and friends have said the confession was made under pressure.

The family's lawyer, Alexandru Postica, told RFE/RL in Chisinau today that he
was unable to travel to Tiraspol for "security reasons" and that the separatist
authorities don't recognize him as Vardanean's legal representative.

Irina Vardanean said the Tiraspol lawyer who has been assigned to her husband's
case by the court refused to talk to her after the court session because he
said he was "busy."

The United States, the OSCE and other foreign governments and international organizations have criticized Vardanean's imprisonment and called on authorities in Transdniester to respect his rights and due process.

Compiled by RFE's Moldovan Service and O wire.