Journalist Yury Bagrov to be tried in Vladikavkaz
Ruslan Isayev, North Caucasus – The first hearing of the case of Yury Bagrov, Radio Liberty’s correspondent in North Ossetia, accused of forging documents in order to obtain Russian citizenship, will take place on December 9 in Vladikavkaz.
“At the end of last spring,” says the journalist, “after the publication of my Associated Press article about the kidnappings in Ingushetia by the Federal Security Service (FSB), my friend in the passport office phoned to tell me that the FSB had come by and made copies of all my records. That is, documents related to when I received my passport, when I got married, when I received my residency permit and my citizenship. And they even took several documents away with them.”
“When they searched my apartment, my office, my car and even my mother’s apartment, I was disturbed that all this was being carried out by the FSB’s Department of Counter-Intelligence led by Lieutenant Colonel Sergei Leonidov. If my case is about citizenship, then you have to ask why they confiscated my dictaphone, photographs, audio and video tapes? And also, why take my wife’s diary and other personal papers?”
Yury Bagrov and his family moved to North Ossetia from Georgia in 1992, and when his Soviet era passport expired, the court granted him a Russian one.
Bagrov’s lawyer, Alexander Dzilikhov, denies his guilt and cites a number of violations on the part of the investigation:
“He had every right to become a Russian citizen and receive a passport in the legally prescribed manner. He’s lived in the Russian Federation since 1992, studied at a university here and has an apartment in the Republic of North Ossetia-Alaniya. There was absolutely no necessity for him to use forged documents in order to get a passport and Russian citizenship.”
There are also violations on the part of the prosecution. Bagrov was not notified that criminal proceedings had been instigated against him even though the law stipulates a suspect’s right to know of what he or she is accused and to receive a copy of the notice of the instigation of criminal proceedings. None of this was done, says Dzilikhov.
Oleg Panfilov, head of the Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations, has no doubts that there is a political motive behind the Bagrov case.
“Bagrov worked with both the US news agency Associated Press, and with Radio Liberty so it’s understandable that much of his writings displeased the North Ossetian authorities.”
“By all appearances, one can expect the investigation to be tough on Bagrov. The charges against him and the behaviour of the investigation in confiscating his computer, notebooks, and journalistic materials just don’t add up.”
“These facts are evidence that the investigation has hidden motives in the case of Yury Bagrov and that this is most certainly a case connected to journalistic activities,” says Panfilov.
Up until recently, Bagrov was almost the only journalist in North Ossetia working for the foreign press. In his reports, he talked about those problems not usually touched on by journalists because of the total censorship in the Russian media, such as the making of money by sending soldiers to do construction work in North Ossetia, the black market in South Ossetia, corruption within the local authorities and the pressure on Chechen refugees.