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Editor held on spurious charges

(Globe International/IFEX) - Chuluunbaatar Dolgor, 51, editor-in-chief of the daily newspaper "Ulaanbaatar Times", was arrested on 24 March 2011 and taken to Detention Center No 461. On 7 April, he was indicted for "illegal privatization and serious damage to public property." If found guilty, he faces 15 years' imprisonment under the relevant article of the Mongolian Criminal Code.

In 2008, "Ulaanbaatar Times" was privatized by the Capital City Privatization Commission when Chuluunbaatar was head of the management privatization team.

Since the investigation by the Capital City Investigation Office, Chuluunbaatar has consistently denied the allegations and maintained his innocence. When he accepted the position of editor-in-chief in 2008, the newspaper had no office because the building housing it had been partly destroyed; the newspaper has debts of millions of MNT to the Taxation and Social Insurance Authorities and staff have remained unpaid. Chulunbaatar has made serious efforts to improve the newspaper's financial situation during his tenure.

The newspaper's offices were in the same building as the former state printing house, near Ulaanbaatar's central square and just to the left of Government House. The Mongolian media has reported that the building was privatized by Enkhbayar Nambar, the former Prime Minister, Parliamentary Speaker and President, 2000-2009. He lost his position in the 2009 Presidential Elections.

During the investigations, Chuluunbaatar has frequently been asked who was behind him. Once, investigators met him without the presence of his lawyer, when they told him, "It is better for you to say who is behind you. You are getting old and your health is deteriorating. If you refuse to tell us who is behind you, it will be detrimental for you."

Such police action is in violation of the Mongolian Constitution, the Law on Criminal Procedure and the Law on Arrest and Detention of Suspects and Defendants, under which no one can be compelled to testify against him/herself, and which bans unlawful action and psychological pressure.

Chuluunbaatar is in poor health. On 2 April, staff at Shagdarsuren, a leading private hospital, concluded that he had serious health problems and needed urgent treatment to save his life. On 27 April, this prognosis was confirmed by a doctor at the detention center hospital, where he had been a patient for a week.

Chuluunbaatar and his defense lawyers have applied for bail nine times; it has consistently been denied.

On 9 May, Globe International convened a press conference calling for Chuluunbaatar's immediate release on bail. In a statement released internationally, the organisation said that his arrest was unjustified and expressed concerns about the violation of his human rights. Globe International considers this case to be a deliberate and politically-motivated attack on the free media and has sent letters to the Capital City Prosecutor, Mr. Dorligjav; the General Prosecutor of Mongolia, Mr. Bayambadorj; the Chairman of the National Human Rights Commission, and Mr. Kh. Temuujin, MP and Chairman of the Human Rights Sub-Committee of the Mongolian Parliament, asking for an investigation into these violations and support for his release on bail.

Chuluunbaatar's arrest has been a hot topic in the Mongolian media since the Globe International press conference. The Confederation of Mongolian Journalists joined the action, convening their own press conference and issuing a statement calling for Chuluunbaatar's immediate release on bail on 17 May.

Chuluunbaatar is an outstanding journalist who began his journalistic career in 1987 on Mongolian Television, the only channel at the time. He has contributed greatly to the development of Mongolian journalism with popular television documentaries about those who were 'repressed' under communism, along with many other programs, and by lecturing at journalism schools on the principles of democratic and independent journalism. He is also a well-known author of a number of books. The government of Mongolia has honored him with the prestigious state prize "Honorable Person of Culture".

Chuluunbaatar has also been a longtime advocate for media freedom and against violations of journalists' rights and is a respected activist in Mongolia's media freedom movement. He has made a valuable contribution to the development of free and independent media in the country as editor-in-chief of two daily newspapers, as well as being elected vice-president of the Asia Journalist Association, its first secretary general and a present executive board member. He was one of the founders of Globe International and is presently a board member.

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