Reporters Without Borders (RSF) calls again for the immediate release of Alexander Valov, a Russian blogger who was sentenced today to six years in a prison camp and a fineof 700,000 roubles (about 9,000 euros) at the end of a sham trial in the southwestern city of Sochi.
After 11 months in preventive detention, Valov was convicted of extorting money from Yury Napso, a Sochi representative in the Russian parliament, despite a lack of material evidence and repeated procedural violations ever since the trial began in early October.
When he made his final appearance in court on 19 December, Valov reiterated that the prosecution’s case was based solely on the testimony of Napso and his two assistants and on quotes from telephone taps taken out of context. The Federal Security Service (FSB) tapped his phone on the grounds that he belonged to a “group of citizens with pro-opposition ideas.”
Valov is well-known in the Sochi region for criticizing prominent local figures in his blog, BlogSochi, in which he accused Napso taking over part of the Sochi’s beach in order to build a private swimming pool.
“We strongly condemn the harsh sentence imposed on Alexander Valov,” said Johann Bihr, the head of RSF’s Eastern Europe and Central Asia desk. “The many procedural violations seen in the course of the trial are evidence of a desire to silence this blogger. We demand his immediate release and a fair appeal hearing in a different region.”
All of Valov’s social network accounts were pirated in March and BlogSochi is still inaccessible. Ever since Vladimir Putin’s reelection as president in 2012, the Internet has been under close control in Russia, which is ranked 148th out of 180 countries in RSF’s2018 World Press Freedom Index.