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Two Russian chief editors ask head of police for probe into opposition arrests

Moscow JailMoscow, 13 January: Dmitriy Muratov, editor in chief of Novaya Gazeta (newspaper, often critical of the government), has announced that he is suspending his work in the Public Council under the Moscow Main Directorate of Internal Affairs (GUVD), giving as his reason what be regards as unlawful actions by the police at the rally on 31 December.

"I am forced to suspend my work in the Public Council. The detention and arrest of participants in the authorized rally (in Triumfalnaya Ploshchad (square in central Moscow) - Interfax) on 31 December was a disgrace for the country. I am very sorry that Moscow police was part of organizing this disgrace," Muratov said in his letter to Moscow GUVD chief Vladimir Kolokoltsev, which was published on the Novaya Gazeta blog on the internet.

In Muratov's view, "secret services used the Moscow police as a 'cover' for dirty political reprisals".

"Your officers grin and shrug their shoulders - everyone understands everything. But, Vladimir Aleksandrovich, "he who understands everything can condone anything" (Goethe). One cannot condone perjury because of clause 9 of the most important civil code: the commandment 'You shall not bear false witness'," Muratov wrote.

In conclusion, he asked Kolokoltsev: "Order an internal investigation into the detention of Russian opposition members. Include several members of the Public Council on the commission. Find out how the 'special operation' which led to the emergence of prisoners of conscience in Russia was prepared."

"I am sure that many members of the Public Council will back this request. And the results should be published. Somehow I hope that you will find something new for yourself in the commission's report," Muratov wrote in the blog. (Passage omitted: background on the detentions)

(Aleksey Venediktov, editor in chief of Gazprom-owned, editorially independent Ekho Moskvy radio, has backed Muratov, Interfax reported later. "He (Muratov - Interfax) has asked the right questions. If there are suspicions of perjury by policemen - in any case, not just this one - a commission should be set up and an investigation carried out, and the GUVD leadership should be the first to be all for it," Venediktov was quoted as telling Interfax. "If a policeman perjures himself, he can do anything. In view of this I support Dmitriy's suggestion and appeal," he added.)

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