June 22, 2020 / 2:10 PM / a month ago

Russian journalist charged with justifying terrorism calls her trial a sham

PSKOV, Russia (Reuters) - A Russian journalist charged with publicly justifying terrorism called the case against her “a sham” on Monday and said it was a sign of growing censorship.

Russian journalist Svetlana Prokopyeva charged with publicly justifying terrorism attends a court hearing in Pskov, Russia June 22, 2020. REUTERS/Maria Vasilyeva

Svetlana Prokopyeva, who faces up to seven years in jail if convicted, got into trouble with authorities in November 2018 when she used her radio programme to discuss the case of a 17-year-old youth who blew himself up at the office of the Federal Security Service (FSB) in the city of Archangelsk.

The young man died and injured three other people in an incident which authorities classified as an act of terrorism.

On her programme, Prokopyeva criticised how the state handled dissenting opinions, saying its approach could lead to radical protest actions similar to the one in Archangelsk.

“As a journalist I am on trial for the job I did,” Prokopyeva told Reuters on the sidelines of her trial on Monday.

“I cannot try to prove I did not do it, because I did my job and now they say my job (as a journalist) is the crime itself. There is no justification of terrorism in my words...I was speaking about how to prevent terrorism,” she said.

State prosecutor Natalia Meleshchenko, citing expert opinions, has said that Prokopyeva described the suicide bombing as a normal act of political protest and encouraged it.

Damelya Aitkhozina, a researcher for New-York based Human Rights Watch, said the case reflected an atmosphere taking shape over many years in Russia ...where independent, free journalism becomes virtually impossible”.

A court in the city of Pskov is expected to deliver a verdict on the case in July.

TV news in Russia is dominated by state-run channels and some of the most influential text outlets are under the direct control of the authorities or businessmen close to the Kremlin.

Editing by Andrew Osborn and Mark Heinrich

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