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Russian Journalist Prokopyeva Rejects Charges Of 'Justifying Terrorism'


Svetlana Prokopyeva
Svetlana Prokopyeva

PSKOV, Russia -- Russian journalist Svetlana Prokopyeva again has rejected charges that she had "justified terrorism" by publishing an online commentary that linked a suicide bombing with the country’s political climate as her trial resumed proceedings.

At the June 16 hearing in the northwestern city of Pskov, defense lawyer Vitaly Cherkasov said prosecutors failed to show any statements by his client that could confirm the allegations.

Prokopyeva, a freelance contributor to RFE/RL’s Russian Service, was charged in connection with a commentary she wrote in November 2018, published by the Pskov affiliate of Ekho Moskvy radio. In the text, she discussed a bombing outside the Federal Security Service offices in the northern city of Arkhangelsk.

Russian media had 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.

Cherkasov told the court that Prokopyeva's comments in question were a journalistic analysis in which his client tried to find out what caused the young man to commit a crime in order to prevent similar tragedies in future.

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 7 years in prison.

“The charges against Svetlana are bogus and should be dropped, so that she and other Russian journalists can continue their efforts to address the important questions that Russians are contending with without fear of legal penalty," RFE/RL President Jamie Fly said in a statement.

Human Rights Watch called Prokopyeva’s prosecution "a violation of freedom of expression, but not just hers."

"It sends yet another chilling message that in Russia, raising uncomfortable questions can have severe repercussions -- a lesson the authorities have been giving the media for years," the New York-based rights group said.

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.