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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Berezovsky's Paper Faces Libel Charge

Prosecutors summoned a deputy editor of the Nezavisimaya Gazeta newspaper to appear Monday and be charged for libel in connection with an article accusing a top Moscow judge and other court officials of bribe-taking.

But Igor Zotov, editor of the paper's respected Ex-Libris literary supplement, was hospitalized with high blood pressure over the weekend and will be summoned at a later date, prosecutors and journalists said.

Tatyana Koshkaryova, editor of the newspaper -- which is owned by self-exiled Kremlin critic Boris Berezovsky -- condemned the decision to charge Zotov.

Zotov was the editor on duty for the Nov. 27, 2001, issue, which included a contested article accusing judges in the case of Krasnoyarsk businessman Anatoly Bykov of taking bribes. The article was written by reporter Alina Tarasova, who no longer works for the paper, Koshkaryova said.

"Charging Igor Zotov rather than Alina Tarasova is totally absurd," Koshkaryova said by telephone, adding that Tarasova's whereabouts are unknown. "An absolutely innocent man is suffering. Why aren't they charging me, who bears full responsibility for the paper?"

Koshkaryova also said that, several days after the story appeared, the paper ran a letter from Bykov's lawyers that argued against the article and amounted to a retraction.

Late Monday, the Moscow prosecutor's office issued a statement saying it had "grounds for charging journalists and top officials at Nezavisimaya Gazeta" because of Tarasova's article, Interfax reported. No further details were available.

Koshkaryova hesitated to link the charges to Berezovsky. Instead, she speculated they could be tied to Olga Yegorova, the head of the Moscow City Court, who was accused of venality in the disputed article.

Last month, a Moscow court slammed another newspaper, Novaya Gazeta, with an unprecedented $1.5 million fine for libel a day after it ran an expos? targeting Yegorova. Press freedom groups said then that the case smacked of retaliation for the paper's critical coverage.

Yegorova could not be reached for comment Monday.