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Russian writer on hunger strike in Moldova prison

Russian writer on hunger strike in Moldova prison
Russian writer Eduard Bagirov has gone on hunger strike after spending several months in a Moldovan prison. Authorities suspect Bagirov of organizing anti-government riots, but have failed to officially produce charges so far.

Bagirov was arrested and put into a pre-trial detention center in the Moldovan capital, Chisinau, on June 16 this year. No official charges have been laid, but the court has several times prolonged the detention of the Russian writer for a further 30 days, the last time being on September 13. After this, Bagirov announced that he was starting a hunger strike that would last until his release.

Bagirov is an ethnic Azerbaijani, born in Turkmenistan, who settled in Moscow in the 1990s. He gained relative notoriety in Russia for writing a book about a young man from the provinces who was building his life in the Russian capital. The book was heavily advertised by publishers and this made Bagirov a figure of some note. Bagirov also maintains a popular blog in Russian. However, the writer has never said anything about his political preferences or projects.

Nevertheless, Moldovan law enforcement officers suspect Bagirov of organizing the riots that took place in Chisinau in April 2009. At the time, crowds of protesters attacked the police and stormed the parliament building and the presidential administration. The riots began after the parliamentary elections, which were won by the ruling Communist Party, and Moldovan President Vladimir Voronin called the events an attempted coup d’état.

Moldovan opposition claimed that the riots were organized by the authorities themselves in order to have an excuse for a clampdown on political opponents. The rioters, mostly young people, simply dissolved after the riots without announcing any political agenda.

Back then Bagirov wrote in his blog that he supported the rioters and also that he somehow participated in the organization of the protests. However, Bagirov’s blog is full of obscenities and provocations and it is hard to distinguish true statements from fantasy. For example, when Bagirov went to Moldova this June, he wrote that he told a customs officer that his fourth wife was opening Europe’s largest sex shop in Chisinau and he was going to take part in the opening ceremony.

Bagirov continued to maintain his blog after the arrest, apparently by proxy of his lawyers. He writes that investigators pressure him to get information they can use against the Moldovan Communist Party, which is now in opposition to acting-President Marian Lupu. Communist official Mark Tkachuk has told the press that the blog statements were true – security officers tried to force Bagirov to present written confessions that the riots were organized by communists.

Bagirov’s detention almost coincided with the election of the mayor of Chisinau, which took place on June 19. However, the detention was prolonged well after the elections were over.

In mid-September, the Russian Foreign Ministry officially demanded that the top Moldovan authorities respond to the arrest of the Russian writer. The ministry’s statement said that if the situation with Bagirov’s arrest remained the same, this could complicate relations between Moscow and Chisinau, and assured that Russia would press for the soonest release of its citizen.