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Ex-journalist Ivan Safronov sentenced to 22 years in prison for treason
The Moscow City Court has sentenced former journalist Ivan Safronov to 22 years in a high-security prison colony, as well as a 500,000-ruble ($8,200) fine and two years of “restrictions on freedom” after his release, on treason charges. Safronov's defense team said they plan to appeal the sentence.
The Russian FSB claims that Safronov passed state secrets to Czech and German intelligence when he was working as a journalist in 2015– 2017. Safronov’s defense team maintains that the case is connected to his past work as a defense reporter. “If you believe the prosecution, I elicited some secret information from some unspecified people at some unspecified time on some unspecified date. We’ve searched for these mythical state-secret-holders, but haven’t found them. Why? I have the answer: because I didn’t get any secrets from anybody,” Safronov said in his closing statement.
According to the defense, political scientist Demuri Voronin, who served as a witness for the prosecution, retracted his original testimony in court and claimed to have perjured Safronov, rendering his witness statement inadmissible. Additionally, the independent news outlet Proekt recently published an investigation showing that all of the “classified” information that Safronov stands accused of passing to Western intelligence services is publicly available online. According to the BBC Russian Service, the authorities’ real motivation for prosecuting Safronov is likely an article he wrote about Russia supplying fighter jets to Egypt.
Ivan Safronov was arrested in July 2020. A former journalist for Kommersant and Vedomosti, Safronov was working as an advisor to the head of the Russian space agency Roscosmos at the time of the arrest.
For almost two years after his arrest, Safronov was not allowed to see his relatives and was given limited information about the charges against him while trying to build a defense. Two of his lawyers, Ivan Pavlov and Yevgeny Smirov, were forced to leave Russia. A third, Dmitry Talantov, was arrested for allegedly spreading “disinformation” about the Russian army.
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