|Tuesday, 22 October 2019|
RFE/RL Newsline, Vol. 2, No. 20, 98-01-30
From: Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty <http://www.rferl.org>
Vol. 2, No. 20, 30 January 1998
[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA
[B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE
[C] END NOTE
[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA
 NAGORNO-KARABAKH DENIES PLOTTING ARMENIAN PRESIDENT'S OUSTERThe government of the unrecognized Republic of Nagorno-Karabakh issued a statement on 29 January denying an Armenian press report that two of its ministers met with local Armenian officials last week to plot the overthrow of President Levon Ter-Petrossyan, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. The Armenian daily "Aravot" had claimed the same day that the two ministers had traveled to Armenia at the behest of Karabakh Defense Minister Samvel Babayan to discuss with the leadership of the province of Syunik, which borders on Azerbaijan, how to topple Ter-Petrossyan with the assistance of the Armenian opposition. The Karabakh government statement said the report is intended to exacerbate the existing differences between Yerevan and Stepanakert. Aram Abrahamian, the editor of "Aravot," told RFE/RL that his information was obtained from "reliable sources." LF
 AZERBAIJAN TO BAN CASINOS, NIGHT CLUBSFollowing a 27 January meeting with the Azerbaijani Security Council, President Heidar Aliev has issued a decree calling for the closure of casinos and night clubs. He also instructed the government to draft a program on fighting immorality, drug abuse, and "publications that violate the national traditions and moral fabric" of Azerbaijani citizens. At the Security Council meeting Aliev criticized Foreign Minister Hasan Hasanov for permitting the Europa Hotel to be transferred to Turkish citizens, who opened a casino and other entertainment facilities on its premises. The hotel was originally intended for use by foreign diplomatic missions LF
 AZERBAIJAN CONSULTS WITH NATO ON GUARDING PIPELINESSpeaking to potential investors in Tokyo, Azerbaijani Prime Minister Artur Rasi-Zade disclosed that the Azerbaijani leadership has had informal consultations with NATO on safeguarding oil export pipelines "should the need to do so arise," Turan reported on 29 January. Rasi-Zade said that investment in oil transportation in the Caucasus cannot be considered safe because of the "many military conflicts" in the region in recent years. LF
 KAZAKH CITY WITHOUT ELECTRICITYLocal authorities on 28 January informed the residents of Shymkent that electricity will be cut off for four days and gas for as long as month, RFE/RL correspondents reported. Temperatures are below freezing and expected to remain at that level through most of February. Companies providing power to Shymkent and Jambyl regions say consumers have overused their allotment of electricity and gas and have thereby caused shortages in Almaty. BP
 PROTESTERS PICKET GOVERNMENT BUILDING IN BISHKEKSome 200 people demonstrated outside the government building in the Kyrgyz capital on 30 January, RFE/RL correspondents reported. Most of the demonstrators were pensioners desmonstrating against unequal pension scales (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 January 1998). The group also protested the government's treatment of Lidia Fomova, chairwoman of the pensioners organization. Fomova says that since the demonstration last week against the pension scales, local authorities have harassed her. She added that she cannot stay at her home because she fears arrest for organizing that demonstration. BP
[B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE
 LARGE CROWDS ATTEND FUNERAL OF KOSOVO ALBANIANSome 15,000 persons attended the funeral in Kamenica on 29 January of an Albanian teenager shot at point-blank range by a Serbian policeman in Kosovska Mitrovica (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 January 1998), an RFE/RL correspondent reported from Pristina. The Serbian authorities issued a statement to the state news agency Tanjug on 29 January claiming that the killing was "involuntary." Police stayed away from Kamenica during the funeral, at which a local ethnic Albanian politician said the young man's death "will make [the Kosovars] stronger and even more determined to achieve our national aim--an independent Kosovo." PM
 MILUTINOVIC HAS NO TIME FOR KOSOVO SERBSSerbian President Milan Milutinovic said in Belgrade on 29 January that he was "too busy" to receive a delegation of Kosovo Serbs who wanted to ask him to protect the Serbs from what they called "Albanian terrorism and separatism." Kosovo Serb politician Momcilo Trajkovic and Serbian Orthodox leader Vladika Artemije, who are heading the delegation, said they demand that Milutinovic receive them by 3 February. Trajkovic added he feels that Serbs and Albanians can reach a settlement in Kosovo on the principle that Kosovo remains in Serbia and that the Kosovo Albanians receive what he called "all rights," "Nasa Borba" reported. Vladika Artemije said it is necessary that Serbs feel safe in Kosovo and want to remain there because, he said, it is pointless to speak of Serbian Kosovo if no Serbs are willing to live there. PM
 YUGOSLAV ARMY CALLS FOR PEACEFUL SOLUTION IN KOSOVOAn army spokesman said in Belgrade on 29 January that he sees no reason for the military to "become involved" in Kosovo at present. He added that the army will not undertake any "provocative actions" in the province but warned that it will not tolerate any attacks on its personnel or property. Meanwhile in Pristina, Tanjug reported that unknown persons threw a hand grenade at the house of a Serb in Obilic near Pristina the previous night. PM
 MONTENEGRO DEMANDS SUPPORT FOR YUGOSLAV DINARThe Montenegrin government on 29 January demanded in a statement that the Yugoslav government and the central bank take steps to stop the fall of the dinar, which has lost one-third of its value against the German mark on the black market since 1 January. The Montenegrin statement added that the weakness of the dinar is the result of Belgrade's policies. It demanded that the federal authorities take steps to end Yugoslavia's international isolation. PM
 DEVALUATION IN OFFING?Former central bank chief Dragoslav Avramovic said in Belgrade that the dinar will have to be devalued at some point to bring its official value more in line with that on the black market, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from the Serbian capital. Serbian Prime Minister Mirko Marjanovic, for his part, said the dinar will not be devalued. Nonetheless, in anticipation of a devaluation, prices rose in Belgrade by up to 50 percent and people have bought up supplies of basic foodstuffs, the correspondent added. PM
 BOSNIAN SERB DEFENSE MINISTER TAKES OFFICEGeneral Manojlo Milovanovic, who is a supporter of Republika Srpska President Biljana Plavsic, took office as defense minister in Banja Luka on 29 January. He is expected to sack Chief-of-Staff General Pero Colic, who tried to steer a middle course between Plavsic and her rivals in Pale, the BETA news agency reported. In other news, the Republika Srpska Statistical Office announced that prices rose 12.8 percent in 1997 and that the average monthly wage is $50. PM
 MARCH AGAINST POVERTY IN ZAGREBBetween 3,000 and 5,000 workers and retired people staged a peaceful demonstration in central Zagreb on 29 January to protest deteriorating living conditions and the government's social policies. Unofficial estimates put the unemployment rate at 300,000, including 46,000 veterans of the 1991-1995 war. The average monthly income is $400 in a country where the price of many basic goods is similar to that in Germany. PM
 OSCE MEDIATES IN ALBANIAN HUNGER STRIKEDaan Everts, a representative of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, has met with three of the judges currently on hunger strike in Tirana, "Republika" reported on 29 January. Everts said the OSCE will try to mediate between the Justice Ministry and the judges, who are protesting alleged government plans to sack up to 400 of their colleagues (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 January 1998). The meeting was also attended by a Council of Europe official. The same day, Democratic Party deputies Azem Hajdari and Ferdinant Xhaferri participated in a meeting between the parliamentary Foreign Relations Committee and a NATO delegation. Their participation marked the end of the Democrats' two-month boycott of the legislature's activities. FS
 ANTI-MAFIA PROSECUTORS APPOINTED IN ALBANIAA spokesman for Prosecutor General Arben Rakipi on 29 January announced the setting up of a special department of anti-Mafia investigators. The team will consist of five Tirana-based police experts as well as local representatives in police stations throughout the country. It will also supervise the activities of a number of undercover agents, "Koha Jone" reported. Italian experts helped set up the new department, which is modeled after its Italian counterpart. FS
 ROMANIAN LEADERS DIFFER OVER FUTURE OF COALITIONBefore leaving for Davos, Switzerland, on 29 January to attend the World Economic Forum, President Emil Constantinescu said the agreement reached with the Democratic Party provides for the continuation of the coalition until 2000, when new elections are due. But Democratic Convention of Romania chairman Ion Diaconescu said the same day that the future of the coalition is uncertain because each draft law will have to be negotiated with the Democrats before it can be debated in the parliament. Democratic Party leader Petre Roman, who is on official visit to Portugal, told Reuters that his party would be "disappointed" if Premier Victor Ciorbea were to stay in office but has agreed for now to give "tactical support" to the government. Democratic Party Deputy Chairman Bogdan Niculescu-Duvaz said his party's support for the cabinet will end on 31 March, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. MS
 ROMANIAN FOREIGN MINISTER AGREES TO STAY ONAndrei Plesu on 29 January said he has agreed to stay on in the cabinet, as requested by Constantinescu and Ciorbea, because "changing the foreign minister every month or so is not an indication of continuity and political stability." In other news, former President Ion Iliescu said the same day that the government "will not survive" but that he welcomes the new developments because opposition parties will now have to be consulted before new legislation is proposed in the parliament. Iliescu also said that his Party of Social Democracy in Romania and the Democratic Party "have much in common...[as regards] doctrine." MS
 MOLDOVAN DEFENSE MINISTER IN WASHINGTONValeriu Pasat on 29 January discussed with his U.S. counterpart, William Cohen, strengthening military relations and cooperation aimed at avoiding the proliferation of mass-destruction weapons, ITAR-TASS reported. Cohen praised Moldova's contribution to the Partnership for Peace program, saying details have been worked out for an enhanced participation. Pasat is paying a four-day visit to the U.S. and is scheduled to meet Vice President Al Gore and other U.S. officials. BASA-press and Infotag reported on 29 January that his visit includes discussions on the sale of another six MiG- 29 fighter jets to the U.S. In December 1995, Chisinau and Washington signed a military cooperation agreement, and in late 1997 Moldova sold 21 MiG-29 planes to the U.S. MS
 MOLDOVAN-TRANSDNIESTRIAN TALKS CANCELED AGAINA meeting between experts representing the two sides in the Moldovan- Transdniestrian conflict, scheduled to take place in Chisinau on 29 January, has been canceled, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. This is the second time that the Transdniestrian side has decided not to participate. Presidential adviser Anatol Taranu said that the separatists were using the excuse that the head of the Tiraspol delegation, Valerii Litskay, is in Moscow. He also accused them of "pursuing a wait-and-see policy and waiting for the outcome of the [March] Moldovan elections." Meanwhile, separatist leader Igor Smirnov met in Moscow with Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin to discuss the issue of the Russian armament stationed in the Transdniester. The separatists have variously claimed full or partial ownership of those arms, Infotag reported. MS
 NO-CONFIDENCE MOTION FAILS IN BULGARIAN PARLIAMENTA no-confidence motion in Ivan Kostov's cabinet was defeated on 29 January by a vote of 135 to 56, an RFE/RL correspondent in Sofia reported. The motion, proposed by the opposition Socialist Party, was aimed at the cabinet's health care policies. No other parliamentary party supported the motion, but some non-Socialist opposition members abstained or stayed away from the ballot. Kostov said that the motion's defeat is a show of support for continuing the government's economic reforms. Later on 29 January, in a statement issued before the opening of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Kostov expressed confidence that Bulgaria will be included in many future European infrastructure projects. He noted that Sofia is focusing on investments in transport and communications to improve links with Western Europe. MS
[C] END NOTE
 UNBALANCED SCALES OF JUSTICE IN KYRGYZSTANby Narynbek Idinov
A series of incidents has raised questions about Kyrgyzstan's judicial system and, especially, about its attitude toward human rights and press freedom. Observers say a trend of reversing lower court decisions reveals political motives behind the orginal charges.
For example, Topchubek Turgunaliev, an opposition leader, was last year accused of embezzlement, abuse of power, and forgery. He was sentenced to 10 years in prison by a district court in Bishkek in January 1997. He appealed, and the Kyrgyz Supreme Court of changed the verdict the following month. It upheld only one accusation (abuse of power) and reduced Turgunaliev's sentence to four years in a penal colony.
Yrysbek Omurzakov, a journalist for the independent "Res Publica" weekly, was accused of libeling a factory manager in an article published in January 1997. A district court failed to reach a verdict in May; but several months later, it sentenced him to two-and-a-half years in a penal colony. A Bishkek municipal court upheld that verdict in November but ruled that the journalist be pardoned under a new amnesty law.
Omurzakov, nonetheless, appealed to the Supreme Court, which earlier this month found him guilty of a civil-- rather than criminal--offense. The court fined him the equivalent of 100 minimum monthly wages (some $600). He will not have to pay, however, because of the amnesty law.
Four other journalists from "Res Publica," including chief editor Zamira Sydykova, were accused of libeling the manager of a state company in several articles published from 1993-1996. In May 1997, a district court sentenced Sydykova and one of her colleagues, Alexander Alianchikov, to 18 months in a penal colony. The two other journalists were fined. Alianchikov was released in June, when a municipal court suspended the sentence, but the court upheld the sentence against Sydykova. In August, the Supreme Court threw out the case and ordered her freed.
Opposition leaders and human rights organizations say local officials aggresively pursued each of those cases and clearly had an influence on their outcome. Opposition leader Turgunaliev had the right to serve in a colony near the capital, where his family lives, but was sent to the remote district, on the border with Tajikistan. Following protests by parliamentary deputies and domestic and international human rights organizations, he was allowed to return to a penal colony near Ashgabat.
Journalist Omurzakov spent 79 days in detention before a municipal court ordered his release. When a local court convicted him months later, he was not ordered to return to detention.
A top government official who wishes to remain anonymous told RFE/RL that the government is aware of local officials' animosity toward journalists and that local officials will go to extremes to try to silence any media criticism. At the same time, Kyrgyz journalists have told RFE/RL that they believe top government officials have also influenced court cases against journalists.
Each of the verdicts listed above was changed only after strong protests from both domestic and international human rights organizations. Amnesty International, The Committee to Protect Journalists, Reporters sans Frontieres, and other organizations sent protest letters to Kyrgyz President Askar Akayev. The President's Office insisted Akayev could not intervene in legal questions, but Akayev announced in December that Turgunaliev could be pardoned, if he apologized. Turgunaliev rejected that offer, saying he was not guilty in the first place.
Kyrgyzstan announced legal reform after it gained independence in 1991. But Akayev, addressing the first congress of Kyrgyz judges in 1994, stressed there had been no reform whatsoever. And two years later, the president repeated his strong criticism.
Opposition politicians and independent journalists continued to be tried from 1995-1997 under the old Soviet criminal code, adopted in the 1960s. The parliament passed a new criminal code last June, while the trials of some of the journalists were in progress. But it retained the Soviet-era provision whereby a journalist who criticizes a state official can be accused of criminal libel and sentenced to three years in jail.
The new criminal code has been criticized by domestic and international human rights organizations. In December, President Akayev's office said journalists convicted of libel will be fined, not sent to jail. Other citizens are still subject to jail terms.
While welcoming such progress, observers and human rights organizations note what they call Kyrgyzstan's pattern of oppression. They also note that none of those who leveled the charges against the journalists faces accountability for his or her actions.
The author works for RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service.
Reprinted with permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty