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Banned Official Sues News Outlets

September 13, 2000

SYDNEY, Australia (AP) _ An Uzbek Olympic official banned from entering Australia because of security concerns is suing three news outlets for alleging he is linked to organized crime, his lawyer said Wednesday.

Gafur Rakhimov, vice president of the Olympic Council of Asia and a member of the National Olympic Committee of Uzbekistan, launched the action in Sydney, lawyer Mark O’Brien said.

Rakhimov targeted The Sydney Morning Herald newspaper, the Australian Broadcasting Corp. and Andrew Jennings, a British journalist and author, O’Brien said.

Rakhimov was one of two Olympic officials refused entry to Australia last week by the government, which cited ``the safety and security of the Australian community″ as its main concern. Hong Kong businessman and basketball official Carl Ching was the other banned official.

Juan Antonio Samaranch, president of the International Olympic Committee, sought an explanation for the bans from Australian Prime Minister John Howard, and accepted the decision after receiving it.

In a statement read Wednesday by O’Brien, Rakhimov denied any criminal links.

``I state categorically and unconditionally that there is no truth in the allegations that I am involved in drug trafficking or that I am a member of any organized crime syndicate at home in Uzbekistan or anywhere else in the world,″ the statement said.

Rakhimov suggested he was the target of a smear campaign by enemies he did not identify, and blamed media reports for the ban on his entry to Australia.

``When the Soviet empire collapsed, I was lucky enough to have the instincts to thrive in the new capitalist markets,″ he said.

``It is not surprising that my success has earned me many enemies both in the former Soviet Union and the west. They have systematically set out to blacken my name by lies, innuendo and gratuitous character assassination.″

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