Ex-Reporter Jailed in Russia for 22 Years on Treason Charges

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MOSCOW — A former journalist was convicted of treason and handed a 22-year jail sentence on Monday after a trial that has been extensively seen as politically motivated and marked a brand new step in a sweeping crackdown on the media and Kremlin critics.

The sentence handed to Ivan Safronov, who labored as a navy affairs reporter for main enterprise day by day Kommersant earlier than changing into an adviser to the top of the Russian area company Roscosmos, has been harshly criticized by his colleagues as totally unfounded.

A couple of buddies and colleagues of Safronov who attended Monday’s listening to on the Moscow Metropolis Court docket chanted “Freedom!” and clapped after the decision was learn.

“I like you all!” Safronov instructed those that got here to assist him.

Safronov was accused of passing navy secrets and techniques to Czech intelligence and a German nationwide. He strongly insisted on his innocence, arguing that he collected all the data from open sources as a part of his journalistic work and did nothing unlawful.

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In his closing assertion on the trial final week, Safronov rejected the fees as “absurd,” noting that he printed all the data he gathered from his sources in authorities businesses and navy industries.

He emphasised that he by no means had entry to any categorized paperwork and emphasised that investigators have failed to provide any witness testimony to again the espionage costs.

Safronov described the lengthy sentence requested by prosecutors as “monstrous,” saying that it will stain the nation’s picture by displaying {that a} journalist is sentenced merely for doing his job. His protection rapidly appealed the sentence.

Many Russian journalists and human rights activists have pushed for Safronov’s launch, sustaining that the authorities might have wished to take revenge for his reporting that uncovered Russian navy incidents and shady arms deals.

Ivan Safronov, an adviser to the director of Russia’s state area company, stands in a cage in a courtroom in Moscow, Russia, on July 16, 2020.

AP Picture/Alexander Zemlianichenko

Hours earlier than the ruling was introduced by the Moscow Metropolis Court docket, 15 unbiased Russian media retailers issued a joint assertion demanding Safronov’s launch.

“It’s apparent to us that the explanation for persecuting Ivan Safronov will not be ‘treason,’ which hasn’t been substantiated … however his work as a journalist and tales he printed with none regard for what the Protection Ministry or Russian authorities assume,” the assertion learn.

Amnesty Worldwide denounced Safronov’s conviction and sentencing as a travesty of justice and demanded that Russian authorities quash them.

“The absurdly harsh sentence meted out to Ivan Safronov symbolizes the perilous actuality confronted by journalists in Russia at present,” Natalia Prilutskaya, the group’s Russia researcher, stated in a press release. “It additionally exposes the failings of the Russian justice system and the impunity loved by state businesses, who routinely fabricate instances with little or no proof to assist them.”

She added that Safronov “was tried solely for his journalistic work,” including that “his solely ‘crime’ was accumulating info from open sources and being acquainted with and befriending foreigners.”

The European Union on Monday additionally urged Russian authorities to drop all costs towards Safronov and “launch him with none situations,” denouncing “systematic repressions of the regime towards unbiased journalism.”

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The Kremlin has remained unperturbed, with Russian President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, refusing to touch upon the case in a convention name with reporters.

Safronov has been in custody since his July 2020 arrest in Moscow.

Rights activists, journalists, scientists and company officers who’ve confronted treason accusations in Russia lately have discovered it tough to defend themselves due to secrecy surrounding their instances and an absence of public entry to info.

Safronov’s father additionally labored for Kommersant, overlaying navy points after retiring from the armed forces. In 2007, he died after falling from a window of his condominium constructing in Moscow.

Investigators concluded that he killed himself, however some Russian media retailers questioned the official model, pointing to his intent to publish a delicate report about secret arms deliveries to Iran and Syria.

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