PSKOV, Russia – A Russian court has ordered a delay in the trial of journalist Svetlana Prokopyeva, who faces terrorism-related charges for publishing an online commentary that linked a suicide bombing with the country’s political climate.
The Pskov court on April 20 ordered the trial postponed due to the coronavirus epidemic now sweeping through Russia, “until the normalization of the sanitary and epidemiologic situation in the country.”
Prokopyeva, a freelance contributor to RFE/RL’s Russian Service, called the decision “correct, because what we need is an open trial accessible to all.”
Her lawyer, Vitaly Cherkasov, said it was impossible to say exactly when the trial may start due to the coronavirus restrictions imposed by the government.
The charges of "justifying terrorism" stem from a November 2018 commentary published by the Pskov affiliate of Ekho Moskvy radio in which she discussed a bombing outside the Federal Security Service offices in the northern city of Arkhangelsk.
Russian media reported that the suspected bomber, who died in the explosion, had posted statements on social media accusing the security service of falsifying criminal cases.
In her commentary, Prokopyeva linked the teenager's statements to the political climate under President Vladimir Putin. She suggested that political activism in the country was severely restricted, leading people to despair.
Prokopyeva has described the case against her as an attempt to “murder the freedom of speech” in Russia.
If found guilty, she faces up to seven years in prison.
The case has drawn criticism from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe and media rights groups like Reporters Without Borders, the Committee to Protect Journalists, and the European Federation of Journalists.
RFE/RL President Jamie Fly called the charges “a cynical effort to silence an independent journalist.”