Reporters Without Borders (RSF) calls for the immediate conditional release of Alexander Valov, a popular blogger in Sochi, in southwestern Russia, on the grounds that no evidence has been produced to support the extortion charge on which he is being held.
Two days after BlogSochi editor Valov’s arrest on 19 January, a judge ordered him held provisionally for at least two months pending trial on a charge of trying to extort money from Yury Napso, a leading Sochi politician who is a representative in the Duma (Russian parliament).
But the charge against Valov, who is well-known for his often critical blog posts about the resort city’s prominent residents, is based solely on a complaint filed by Napso’s assistant, with no sworn statement, no material evidence and no statement by Napso himself.
“There is no basis for Alexander Valov’s provisional detention,” said Johann Bihr, the head of RSF’s Eastern Europe and Central Asia desk. “We call for the immediate release of this blogger, who has a right to a fair and impartial investigation of the charges against him.”
Napso already sued Valov for defamation when the blogger accused him of appropriating a section of the beach in Sochi in order to build a private swimming pool. Valov was ordered to pay Napso 1,500,000 roubles (21,500 euros) in damages on appeal last month.