A lawyer for RFE/RL freelance correspondent Vladyslav Yesypenko, who has been in detention in Russia-occupied Crimea since March and was charged with possession and transport of explosives, said the defense wants to investigate his claims that he has been subjected to psychological and physical pressure in detention.
Dmytro Dinze said the defense will try to investigate the claims during court hearings in and will demand materials related to the case from the military investigation department, according to RFE/RL’s Ukrainian Service.
Yesypenko testified during a closed-door court hearing in April that he was tortured with electric shocks, beaten, and threatened with death unless he "confessed" to spying on behalf of Ukraine, his lawyer reported.
Dinze also noted that Yesypenko fainted while being transported from an earlier pretrial hearing.
Yesypenko’s wife told Crimea.Realities, a regional news outlet of RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service, that Yesypenko informed her about the fainting episode in a letter. It happened on July 6 after he was kept in an unventilated “box” while being transported from court back to the detention center.
He told his wife that he fainted due to heat and lack of oxygen in the metal box after his request that a door be opened to allow in air was denied.
He wrote to the judge and the head of the detention center the next day, informing them that he refused to be transported that way again because he feared for his life and health.
Russian law enforcement agencies have not commented on the situation.
A court in Simferopol in Russia-occupied Crimea on July 15 formally charged Yesypenko with the possession and transport of explosives. He pleaded not guilty. He has been in detention since March and would face up to 18 years in prison if convicted.
Russia's Federal Security Service (FSB) detained Yesypenko, a dual Russian-Ukrainian citizen who contributes to Crimea.Realities, on suspicion of collecting information for Ukrainian intelligence.
But the indictment made no mention of espionage or work for Ukrainian intelligence, as stated previously by the FSB.
The process has been decried by Kyiv, the United States, and press advocacy groups as a sham to crush dissent and information.
RFE/RL President Jamie Fly has described the case as the latest example of the Kremlin's campaign to target independent media outlets.
The case “is a mockery of justice,” Fly said in a statement on July 15 after Yesypenko was formally charged.
"It shows the lengths to which the Kremlin is willing to go to silence independent reporting about the true situation in Crimea. Journalism is not a crime -- and Vladyslav Yesypenko is not a criminal," Fly said.
Russia has sought to crush dissent in Crimea, including prosecuting journalists and human rights activists, since seizing the Ukrainian peninsula in March 2014.
Press freedom advocates, including the Committee to Protect Journalists and Reporters Without Borders, along with Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba and the U.S. State Department, are among those who have called for Yesypenko’s immediate release in the absence of any evidence of wrongdoing.