11 Nov 2010

Maimed Russian journalist convicted for defaming official

Journalist has been beaten for criticising logging projects, leaving him wheelchair-bound and mute.

Russian opposition movements supporters hold a poster reading 'Beating of Beketov - political terror' during a rally in support of reporter Mikhail Beketov in central Moscow on November 30, 2008. Photo: Getty Images.

A Russian court convicted Mikhail Beketov, the editor-in-chief of Khimkinskaya Pravda, for defaming a government official linked to a controversial logging project.

Beketov was beaten up by unknown assailants in November 2008 for criticising the logging project and supporting a campaign to save a forest in the Russian town Khimki. He was maimed during the incident and uses a wheelchair. He cannot speak either.

The court ruled that Beketov slandered Vladimir Strelchenko, the mayor of Khimki, in 2007 after Beketov's car was burnt in an arson attack. He reportedly gave a television interview accusing Strelchenko of "political terror".

Although the court fined Beketov 5,000 roubles (£100), it said the amount need not be paid on a technicality.

Civil rights campaigners condemned the ruling. Alexei Simonov of the Glasnost Defence Foundation termed the judgement as "absurd".

The ruling comes after the journalist Oleg Kashin was nearly beaten to death in the Russian capital on Saturday morning, and is expected to cause fresh outrage among journalists and rights activists.

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