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13 Apr, 2009 19:01

Journalist blamed for inciting Moldovan riots

Moldova’s authorities believe neighbouring Romania could be behind anti-government protests which followed the parliamentary election - but they have also set their sights on a local journalist as one of the ringleaders.

Votes cast in the Moldovan parliamentary polls will be re-counted in one day, April 15, the Central Election Commission decided on Monday, according to Interfax news agency.

Meanwhile, after the violent protests which caused the re-count, authorities want to determine who helped orchestrate the incident – and one of those they suspect is 24-year-old journalist Natalya Morar – who is unwanted in Russia, and now on the wanted list in Moldova.

When journalists Ilya Barabanov and Natalya Morar got married in the Moldovan capital of Chisinau, they planned to spend their holiday in Moscow.

But the bride was not allowed into Russia – and authorities didn’t give an explanation for refusing Natalya Morar’s entry.

Later she was told that she posed a threat to Russian national security.

And though Morar and her husband had been working for a Russian newspaper 'The New Times' for several years, there have been many claims as to what the 24-year old Moldovan had been doing apart from writing articles for the opposition press.

“When she studied at university in Russia, she was believed to have been involved in student organizations which were aimed at destabilizing the political situation in the country. Such organizations were created in other post-Soviet states for the so-called colour revolutions,” explains journalist Mikhail Leontyev.

Having stayed at the airport for three days with no success, Natalya returned to Moldova.

But one year later, her name surfaced again – she was associated with an anti-government movement which is believed to be one of the driving forces behind the April 7 riots in Moldova.

In her internet blog, Natalya Morar described Chisinau’s events and what led to them. In a message posted on April 7, just hours before the angry mob stormed the country’s parliament, she wrote that the anti-communist movement used social networking websites to gather the crowd.

Within just several hours, they managed to bring up to 15,000 people to the streets.

It is still being debated whether this particular gathering led to the events which shocked Moldova – something the republic’s interior ministry insists on.

The journalist, however, firmly denies any violent intent.

“We’re here for a peaceful rally. I urge you to avoid bloodshed, and do not follow any provocations. We only have to voice our stance to the government,” Natalya Morar said at a rally in Chisinau a day before the clashes.

Nevertheless, the authorities charged her with attempting to organize a coup d'etat, and even claimed they arrested her.

Only 24 hours later, the Moldovan Interior Ministry conceded that they caught another woman with the same surname.

“My wife is perfectly innocent. She took part in a peaceful rally which has nothing to do with the riots. I don’t understand why they’re charging her. We have asked Amnesty International to sort this out with the Moldovan authorities,” said Natalya Morar’s husband, journalist Ilya Barabanov.

Ilya says he believes that his wife went too far by taking part in a political action, but also says it was her moral right to do so.

However, Natalia sent a letter to April 13 issue of the New Times, saying she wants to end her employment with the publication.

In a letter to the editor of the New Times, she said her civil position did not allow her to stay away from what was going on in her country, so she cannot continue to work as a journalist in Moldova.

She said that she did participate in a peace rally on April 6, but has nothing to do with the violent protests that followed. 

Meanwhile, the 24-year-old journalist is still on the run.