Crimean court sentences Ukrainian journalist to seven years in prison

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) condemns the sham trial that has ended with Ukrainian journalist Iryna Danilovych being sentenced to seven years in prison by a municipal court in Feodosia, in southeastern Crimea, on a charge of making explosives. Hounded by the Russian security authorities since 2016, this journalist must be freed at once, RSF says.

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After a trial that began on 22 August and lasted four months, with several suspensions, the court finally imposed the sentence requested by the prosecution – seven years in prison and a fine of 50,000 roubles (about 650 euros).

“This trial on a charge of manufacturing explosives recalls those of Vladyslav Yesypenko and other Crimean journalists, who have been convicted on similar charges,” said Jeanne Cavelier, the head of RSF’s Eastern Europe and Central Asia desk. “We condemn this sham justice serving the Russian authorities in their political crackdown in the Crimean peninsula since their occupation began in 2014. Iryna Danilovych is one of nine Crimean journalists who are in Russian prisons. We demand their immediate release.”

A nurse by profession, Danilovych had been harassed by the Russian authorities since 2016 in connection with her journalistic coverage of public health issues, especially at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, when she was posting on social media and reporting for several media outlets including Krym.Realii (the Crimean branch of the US broadcaster Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty).

Abducted by Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) at a bus stop on the outskirts of Koktebel, a small town near Feodosia, on 29 April, she was illegally held incommunicado in the basement of FSB headquarters in Simferopol, the Crimean capital, for eight days, during which her family knew nothing of her whereabouts. Her lawyer says she was subjected to a significant level of psychological and physical pressure during those eight days, after which she was placed in judicial detention on trumped-up explosives charges.

Danilovych has never ceased to deny the charges or to denounce the physical violence that accompanied her abduction and the lack of medical care. Her health has become a source of concern as a result of the lack of medical attention, and the trial has to be briefly suspended a few days before the verdict when she fell ill in the courtroom.

The Crimean peninsula’s annexation by Russia has had a very negative impact on local journalists, who have been harassed constantly by the occupying authorities but even more so since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine last February.

In a final statement before the court passed sentence, Danilovych referred to the fate of other victims of enforced disappearances and concluded: “The totalitarian regime does not need those who speak the truth openly. Its prisons are now full.”

In September, RSF filed a complaint with the International Criminal Court and the office of Ukraine’s prosecutor-general about Danilovych’s enforced disappearance and arbitrary detention, and the denial of her right to due process.

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