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Latvian security services persecute Russian language newspaper for articles on Waffen SS war crimes
[May 15, 2006]

Latvian security services persecute Russian language newspaper for articles on Waffen SS war crimes

(The Ukrainian Times Via Thomson Dialog NewsEdge)According to the IPI World Press Freedom Review, the Latvian security services started an investigation of the Russian language newspaper Chas (Hour) in April 2005. The popular daily Chas is a strong supporter of Russian minority rights. Reportedly, the case stems from a letter allegedly inciting ethnic hatred that the newspaper published.

Chas staff, Editor-in-chief Ksenia Zagorovskaya and columnist Leonid Fedoseyev were summoned by the police for questioning in early April.

The newspaper suggested that the annual march by Latvian Waffen SS veterans in Riga should be stopped and it published articles on Waffen SS war crimes. In Latvia, March 16 is the day of the memory of Latvian Waffen SS troops, who fought against the U.S.S.R. during World War II. The legal actions started the next day.

Alexander Kirshteins, a member of parliament who has made several anti-Russian statements, has tried to start several criminal cases against the newspaper for inciting ethnic hatred. The state prosecutor did not start a criminal case, but the prosecution followed a failed attempt by Kirshteins to bring a case against the newspaper.

According to RIAN news agency, the newspaper believes that Kirshteins may have a personal motive, as the newspaper has published articles critical of him. There have also been claims that the charges are politically motivated.

The World Association of Newspapers says that the campaign of harassment of Chas includes some 20 tax and financial inspections of the paper and its publishing house, Petits, in 2004-2005.

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