Friday, November 12, 2010

Disabled Russian journalist convicted of slander

From AFP:

MOSCOW — A Russian court Nov. 10 convicted of slander a journalist confined to a wheelchair and brain damaged after a brutal attack two years ago but relieved him of any punishment, reports said.

Mikhail Beketov, editor of the Khimkinskaya Pravda weekly published in the district of Khimki outside Moscow, was on trial for slander after accusing the local mayor of being involved in a bid to blow up his car.

"The court finds Beketov guilty of slander by knowingly spreading false information tarnishing the honour and professional reputation of an individual," the ITAR-TASS news agency quoted judge Arkady Khalatov as saying.

He was ordered by the Khimki court to pay nominal damages of 5,000 rubles (160 dollars) but Khalatov then instructed that Beketov escape any punishment due to the time that had elapsed since the offence was committed.

The journalist made the allegations against the mayor of Khimki, Vladimir Strelchenko, in September 2007 in a television interview.

Beketov, who has undergone eight operations and has to live in a clinic, sustained brain damage in the November 2008 attack which also forced the amputation of a lower leg and fingers.

He had been following controversial plans to build a highway through the forest in Khimki, an issue also covered by Kommersant reporter Oleg Kashin who was severely beaten at the weekend in an attack that shocked Russia.

Beketov appeared in the courtroom in a wheelchair and accompanied by doctors. His injuries mean that he was barely able to communicate with his lawyer and could not give a personal statement to the court.

Strelchenko said in court that he was saddened by the attack on Beketov but had no intention of withdrawing his suit.

Beketov's lawyer Andrei Stolbunov said that he would appeal the verdict and did not rule out turning to international human rights courts, ITAR-TASS reported.