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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Police Take Issue with TV Host's First Novel

Itar-TassAstakhov
City prosecutors Tuesday morning questioned prominent lawyer and media personality Pavel Astakhov over claims by a senior city police official that Astakhov slandered law enforcement officers in a novel he penned recently.

Astakhov was questioned by investigators at the Koptevsky District Prosecutor's Office over claims by Ivan Glukhov, head of city police's main investigative directorate, that the lawyer's novel, "Raider," slandered the country's law enforcement authorities.

"I do not consider myself guilty of anything," Astakhov said outside the district prosecutor's office after the one-hour questioning. "But I nevertheless treat this issue very professionally."

In addition to being a high-profile lawyer, Astakhov is the host of a television program called "Chas Suda," or "Court Hour," on Ren-TV similar to well-known U.S. court shows such as "Judge Judy" and "The People's Court."

Astakhov's questioning came after Glukhov asked city prosecutors to open a criminal investigation into Astakhov's portrayal of law enforcement officers in the novel, leading to the peculiar prospect of an author facing libel charges over a work of fiction.

"I explained that the novel was definitely fiction, because everybody has the right to undertake an artistic endeavor," Astakhov said. "It is a constitutional right and cannot be restricted."

Astakhov's novel is a political and legal thriller that follows mergers and acquisitions involving several large companies. The main character is a man who bribes officers from the main investigative directorate to raid companies and open criminal investigations.

"It's a work of art and there are fictional characters and a fictional plot," said Sergei Rubis, head of Eksmo, which published the novel in March. "I can't think of any similar case."

City Prosecutor's Office spokeswoman Valentina Titova declined to comment Tuesday on the complaint against Astakhov, saying that a formal criminal investigation had not been opened.

Astakhov's lawyer, Mikhail Burmistrov, said prosecutors would likely decide within 10 days whether to open a criminal investigation.

Slandering a judge, juror, prosecutor, investigator or officer of the court is punishable by up to two years in prison.

Glukhov could not be reached for comment. But in an interview published Tuesday in Kommersant, he said Astakhov's novel created "widespread negative resonance" for officers in the city police's main investigative directorate.

"This book contains numerous insulting and slanderous fabrications about the work of the main investigative directorate and false statements that besmirch the honor and dignity of ... the entire law enforcement system of the Russian Federation," Glukhov told the newspaper.

City police spokesman Alexander Yudin said he could not immediately comment on the case and asked for a written inquiry. A faxed request for comment went unanswered as of Tuesday evening.