Investigative reporter's jail sentence upheld on appeal

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Russian investigative reporter Alexander Sokolov's sentence of three and a half years in a prison camp was upheld on appeal on 21 December. Reporters Without Borders (RSF) is appalled by the decision and thinks it was motivated by a desire for revenge.

The Moscow appeal court made absolutely no changes to the sentence that the former RBC reporter received in August on a charge of “perpetuating the activities of a banned extremist organization.”

Sokolov described the proceedings as a "farce" and said the decision "contradicts the facts." His lawyer announced that he would refer the case to Russia's supreme court.

"Alexander Sokolov has already spent two and a half years in prison although he did absolutely nothing wrong," said Johann Bihr, the head of RSF's Eastern Europe and Central Asia desk. "Leaving his conviction and sentence unchanged has more to do with revenge and persecution than justice. We hope the supreme court will take a different approach."

05.12.2017 - Russia: Investigative reporter must be acquitted on appeal, RSF says

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Reporters Without Borders (RSF) reiterates its call for the acquittal and immediate release of Alexander Sokolov, an investigative journalist whose appeal against his conviction on an extremism charge will receive further examination by a Moscow municipal court tomorrow.

Like two of his three co-defendants, Sokolov will not be in court for tomorrow’s hearing, which he will follow by video connection from his prison camp. After two years of provisional detention, he was sentenced in August to three and a half years in prison for “perpetuating the activities of a banned extremist organization.”

In RSF’s view, he was jailed on the flimsiest of cases, and his journalistic activities were the real reason for his arrest. His last story was about the embezzlement of a large amount of public funds in the construction of the high-profile Vostochny Cosmodrome.

“Justice must finally be rendered to Alexander Sokolov, who has been deprived of his freedom for two and a half years on the flimsiest of pretexts,” said Johann Bihr, the head of RSF’s Eastern Europe and Central Asia desk. “The limitations on Sokolov’s participation in the appeal hearing violate his right to defence. He should either be allowed to attend in person or he should have a better video conference connection and should be able to exchange confidential comments with his lawyer during the hearing.”

Sokolov, whose Moscow apartment caught fire in suspicious circumstances in August, was one of the seven journalists nominated for this year’s RSF-TV5 Monde Press Freedom Prize. His appeal began being heard on 30 November. RSF urges as many journalists as possible to attend tomorrow’s hearing in Moscow.

Russia is ranked 148th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2017 World Press Freedom Index.

For more details about the case, see RSF’s previous press releases.

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Updated on 22.12.2017