Reporters Without Borders (RSF) reiterates its call for the release of Alexander Valov, a blogger whose provisional detention was extended for another month at a hearing yesterday although the investigation has stalled and Valov did not attend the hearing because of a stomach injury sustained in unclear circumstances.
At yesterday’s hearing in the southwestern city of Sochi, at which Valov’s detention was extended for the third time since his arrest in January, a prosecutor said Valov stabbed himself in the stomach with a pen last week and, although no longer in hospital, could not attend on medical grounds.
Well-known for frequent blog posts critical of leading Sochi figures, Valov continues to be charged with trying to extort money from Yury Napso, a Sochi representative in the Russian parliament, although the investigation has not progressed and has yet to produce any evidence of his guilt.
The defence has also denounced many procedural flaws that the court has not taken into account.
Valov’s lawyer, Alexander Popkov, said he did not rule out that Valov may have stabbed himself in protest against the conditions in which he is being held, but he was not yet in a position to confirm this. Valov has no problems with his fellow detainees but his repeated insistence of respect for his rights has provoked a certain animosity among the prison guards, Popkov added.
“Whether Alexander Valov stabbed himself in a moment of despair or someone else stabbed him, this is extremely serious and needs a full investigation,” said Johann Bihr, the head of RSF’s Eastern Europe and Central Asia desk. “Meanwhile, the lack of any progress in the case against this blogger shows that his detention is a punitive measure designed to silence him. We call for his immediate release.”
In April, Popkov reported that Valov’s electronic messaging and social network accounts had been pirated by persons apparently using the SIM card that was confiscated from him. His BlogSochi website has not been accessible since the end of March because hackers deleted all of its contents, according to the site’s former administrator.
Russia is ranked 148th out of 180 countries in RSF's 2018 World Press Freedom Index. On the eve of the FIFA World Cup, RSF launched a campaign for the release of all the journalists and bloggers imprisoned in Russia, including Valov.