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Thursday, 15 March, 2001, 20:31 GMT
Gusinsky claims political persecution
Vladimir Gusinsky
Vladimir Gusinsky: "freedom of speech is at stake"
By Flora Botsford in Madrid

The Russian media magnate Vladimir Gusinsky is spending another night in a Spanish jail while a panel of judges decides on his extradition to Moscow to face fraud charges.


This case is about freedom of expression in Russia and the future of the independent media.

Vladimir Gusinsky
Mr Gusinsky was arrested in Spain at the end of last year by police acting on an order by Interpol.

Mr Gusinsky gave the high court in Madrid a thorough account of the reasons why he believes the case against him to be politically motivated.

In cases of extradition, he said, there were two aspects to consider: the criminal and the political.

As far as he was concerned, the criminal allegations had been answered - he had paid his debts to the Russian gas monopoly, Gazprom, and could prove it.

Moscow State prosecutors have accused Mr Gusinsky of embezzlement to the tune of $250m linked to his Media-MOST communications empire.

Anti-Government stance

Political motivations were more difficult to prove, he argued, but the evidence was there for all to see.

Gusinsky's progress
1999
Switches sides to join anti-govt camp
June 2000
Briefly arrested in Russia for fraud
December 2000
Re-arrested in Spain for fraud
Media-MOST, in its publications, television and radio programmes, had always been critical of the Russian government over the war in Chechnya, the Kursk submarine tragedy and investigations into corruption by the Moscow authorities.

"Whatever the outcome of the extradition case, we are talking about more than extradition here," he said.

"This case is about freedom of expression in Russia and the future of the independent media."

The panel of three Spanish judges made no decision on the extradition but, going against the advice of Mr Gusinsky's lawyers, ordered his detention in prison for another night while they decide on his future security arrangements.

He has been under house arrest since he was arrested in southern Spain last December.

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See also:

26 Dec 00 | Europe
Court dismisses Gusinsky case
22 Dec 00 | Europe
Gusinsky freed on bail
16 Jun 00 | Europe
Gusinsky: Thorn in Putin's side
28 Mar 00 | Business
Russia's new oligarchs
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