On June 4, a court in Moldova's separatist Transdniester region
extended by a further 30 days the pre-trial detention of
independent journalist Ernest Vardanian, RFE/RL's Moldovan Service
Vardanian, who is 33, is a freelancer for the local news agency Novy Region 2.
He was detained on April 7 at his home in Tiraspol, the capital of the
unrecognized Transdniester republic. He is accused of spying for Moldova, and
could be sentenced to between 12 and 20 years in prison if found guilty.
The Moldovan government, the U.S. Embassy
in Chisinau, the European Union, and
the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe have all urged the
Transdniester authorities to release Vardanian from detention and ensure he
receives a fair trial.
Human rights and journalists' associations, including the Committee to Protect Journalists
and Reporters Without Borders, have also condemned his arrest.
On May 12, Transdniester's official TV channel showed Vardanian giving a
. His family and friends say they believe the
confession was made under pressure.
Speaking to RFE/RL by phone from Tiraspol, Vardanian's wife Irina recently expressed
concern that attention has receded from her husband's case.
She said she had written dozens of letters, including one to Russian President
Dmitry Medvedev -- who is believed to have huge influence over the leaders of
Transdniester -- but has received no response.
The Moldovan lawyers who had offered to help her, she said, have stopped taking
Irina Vardanian told RFE/RL she will ask Transdniester's self-styled president,
Igor Smirnov, to pardon her husband because "the rest of the world has
forgotten us."RFE/RL's O wire compiled this report.