Tightening the screws Already under more stringent conditions of detention, journalist Ivan Safronov is given three days of punitive confinement
Ivan Safronov, a former journalist and adviser to the head of Russia’s space agency, has been in Moscow’s Lefortovo remand prison for 15 months, awaiting trial for treason. The details of the charges against him remain practically unknown. Reportedly, investigators wrapped up their work at the end of October, and Safronov and his lawyers have been able to begin analyzing the case materials. During his 15 months in custody, Safronov hasn’t been permitted a single visit or phone call with any of his family members, and for the last month he’s also been banned from sending and receiving correspondence. Safronov was moved to a higher-security cell during the summer of 2021, and in early November he was transferred to punitive confinement for three days. Meduza traces the twists and turns of Ivan Safronov’s time in jail.
FSB investigator Alexander Chaban denies Ivan Safronov’s request to call his mother on her birthday. The jailed journalist can’t speak to his mother without the investigator’s permission, because she’s a witness in his case.
Chaban justifies his decision by claiming that the birthday phone call “could be used by the accused for a covert exchange of information; the performance of other intelligence-gathering [on behalf of] foreign special services, directed against the security of the Russian Federation; and for undermining the investigation.”
The FSB refuses to give Safronov permission to speak with his 12-year-old niece.
Human rights activist Marina Litvinovich, who was still a member of Moscow’s Public Monitoring Commission (ONK) at the time, decries the decision as an attempt to put “psychological pressure” on Safronov, saying that there was no legal or reasonable basis for investigators to deny him a phone call with this niece.
Investigator Chaban offers Safronov a plea deal in exchange for a phone call with his mother. Safronov turns it down. “Ivan said that he won’t forgive the investigator for this,” relays his lawyer Dmitry Katchev.
Safronov is declared a witness in a criminal case against his lawyer, prominent human rights attorney Ivan Pavlov. This bars the lawyer and his client from having any further communication, since Pavlov is forbidden from contacting the witnesses in his case.
The newspaper Vedomosti publishes a column authored by Ivan Safronov on the anniversary of his arrest. That same day, Safronov is temporarily transferred to solitary confinement — his lawyer Ivan Pavlov notes that the former journalist’s column was “largely based on conversations with [his] cellmates.”
Still in custody in the Lefortovo remand prison, Safronov is placed under more stringent conditions of detention. He is transferred to a higher-security cell, located near a punishment cell. “Searches have become commonplace, and the management personnel are constantly asking him to do stupid things,” reports lawyer Ivan Pavlov.
Around this time, Safronov is banned from sending and receiving letters, at the request of the investigation. Investigator Alexander Chaban claims that the law allows for prohibiting correspondence that “contains information that could interfere with the establishment of the truth in a criminal case or facilitates the commission of a crime.”
Lawyer Dmitry Katchev says that Safronov’s letters aren’t even reaching his defense attorneys, with whom he has a legal right to discuss any and all details of his case.
Safronov is transferred to punitive confinement for three days for fiddling with the antenna on the television in his cell. In an attempt to fix the signal, Safronov and his cellmate allegedly stuck the antenna to the wall — breaking the remand prison’s rule that forbids attaching anything to cell walls.
While in the punishment cell, Safronov is forbidden from wearing a sleep mask. According to ONK member Boris Klin, Safronov says he has been unable to sleep due to bright lights that are left on around the clock, and his eyes have become inflamed.