- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 14, 2002

The daughter of Sergei Duvanov, a leading Kazakhstan investigative journalist being held by the government on charges of raping a 14-year-old girl, yesterday denounced the case as politically motivated and said only U.S. and Western pressure could save her father.
"Nobody who knows anything about my father believes there is any possibility he is culpable," said Denissa Duvanova in an interview during a visit to Washington this week to lobby lawmakers and Bush administration officials on her father's behalf.
"This is all part of a pattern by the Kazakh government to silence him for what he has written," said Miss Duvanova, 25, a doctoral degree candidate in political science at Ohio State University.
The Oct. 27 detention of Mr. Duvanov, editor of a human rights bulletin and frequent critic of Kazakhstan President Nursultan Nazarbayev, has prompted new criticism of the government's record on human rights and press freedoms. The journalist has published several stories on what has become known locally as "Kazakhgate" revelations of secret Swiss bank accounts linked to the president and top aides.
Kazakh prosecutors in July pressed and later dropped charges against Mr. Duvanov for "insulting the dignity and honor of the president."
The journalist is also the victim of a still-unsolved beating Aug. 28, just before he was to travel to an Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) meeting in Warsaw on press freedoms in Kazakhstan.
The rape charges came just before Mr. Duvanov, 49, was to travel to Washington and New York to discuss his investigative findings and to pick up an award for his writings.
Roman Vassilenko, first secretary of the Kazakhstan Embassy in Washington, denied the government has tried to intimidate Mr. Duvanov.
"We can certainly understand the feelings of a daughter in this kind of matter, but this is a legal case that must be allowed to proceed," he said. "It is premature for us to say anything about the substance of the case."
He also denied the government was behind the August beating and noted the president himself had denounced the attack and appointed a team headed by a senior Interior Ministry official to investigate the incident.
The case has also presented a dilemma for the Bush administration. Kazakhstan's vast oil reserves and its role as a staging base for the U.S.-led military campaign in Afghanistan have given the vast Central Asian country new strategic value.
State Department spokesman Richard Boucher on Tuesday called the charges "very serious" and noted past U.S. concerns about the harassment of journalists under Mr. Nazarbayev.
But he declined to condemn the arrest and said the U.S. government's "primary concern" is that "any legal process against [Mr. Duvanov] be carried out in a fair, transparent and open manner."
Charles R. Both, a Washington attorney who has worked with Kazakh opposition groups and with former Prime Minister Akhezan Kazhegeldin, Mr. Nazarbayev's main political rival, said the rape charge was a clever ploy by Kazakh officials to head off criticism in the case.
"This really goes beyond the pale, but when they went after this guy over what he wrote they were beaten to a pulp by the OSCE, the State Department and the human rights groups," Mr. Both said. "So what do they do? They manufacture a rape case against a minor, which means even the court proceedings by law will be private."
Mr. Duvanov earlier this week ended a hunger strike begun shortly after his arrest, but his daughter said he had smuggled out a letter to supporters indicating he was prepared to die rather than submit to official pressure.
"He said he is not afraid to go all the way to prove his innocence," Miss Duvanova said, her eyes welling with tears. "I sense from his words that he already thinks he is going to die."


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