Friday, May 14th, 2010

WASHINGTON (RFE/RL)-The United States has reiterated its concern for
an Armenian-born journalist held in Moldova's breakaway Transdniester
region on charges of high treason.

The head of the U.S. mission to the OSCE, Ambassador Ian Kelly, on
Thursday asked the OSCE's Permanent Council in Vienna to continue
working to ensure that Ernest Vardanean's rights are respected.

According to RFE/RL's Moldovan service, Kelly said reports about
the conditions in which Vardanean is being held and that he has been
denied the right to choose his own legal counsel are "worrying."

Vardanean, 30, is an independent journalist based in Transdniester's
capital, Tiraspol. He was arrested on April 7 and accused of spying
for Moldova's secret services.

Transdniester's official television channel aired a videotape on May
11 in which Vardanean confessed to spying for the Moldovan secret
service. Officials in Chisinau and Vardanean's family have said that
the confession was probably made under extreme pressure.

If found guilty, Vardanean could be sentenced to up to 20 years
in prison.

His wife, Irina, has appealed to Russian government officials to
intercede on her husband's behalf.