A court in Moscow on Monday jailed a journalist for 22 years in a maximum security prison on charges of treason after a trial widely seen as politically motivated.
The sentence handed down to Ivan Safronov is one of the harshest blows dealt to independent journalists and Kremlin critics in Russia.
Safronov worked as a defence and space reporter for Kommersant newspaper for a decade, before becoming an adviser to the head of the Russian space corporation Roscosmos.
Speaking to reporters outside the court one of his lawyers slammed the sentence
“I cannot call this sentence anything but “inadequate,” said Dmitriy Kachev. “Hackneyed words like “unlawful” and “unjust” can’t reflect all the absurdity that has happened today and which we have all witnessed. Ivan Safronov was given 22 years for his journalism work. I want every one of you Russian journalists looking at me now, to think about whether it is worth going on with this profession – if a person is given 22 years for doing his job.”
Safronov was accused of passing military secrets to Czech intelligence, and information about the Russian military to a German national. He insists on his innocence and argued that he collected all the information from open sources in the course of his work and did nothing illegal.
Many Russian journalists and human rights activists have pushed for Safronov’s release, maintaining that the authorities may have wanted to take revenge for his reporting that exposed Russian military incidents and shady arms deals.