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Russia wants 24-year treason sentence for ex-journalist Safronov - defence

Russian ex-journalist Safronov gets 22 years in prison for treason
Russian ex-journalist Safronov gets 22 years in prison for treason Copyright Thomson Reuters 2022
Copyright Thomson Reuters 2022
By Reuters
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LONDON - Russian state prosecutors on Tuesday requested a 24-year jail term for former journalist Ivan Safronov, who is on trial for treason, his defence team said.

Safronov covered military affairs for the Vedomosti and Kommersant newspapers before becoming an aide to the head of Russia's space agency two months before his arrest in July 2020.

He denies accusations of passing military secrets about Russian arms sales in the Middle East and Africa to the Czech Republic, a NATO member, while he worked as a reporter in 2017, calling them "a complete travesty of justice and common sense".

Safronov has said state investigators pointed to his acquaintance with a Czech journalist he met in Moscow in 2010, who later set up a website to which Safronov said he had contributed, using information entirely based on open sources.

Yevgeny Smirnov, a lawyer with First Department - an association headed by Ivan Pavlov, Safronov's previous defence lawyer, who is now in exile in Georgia - wrote on Facebook that prosecutors had requested a 24-year sentence after Safronov declined to plead guilty in return for a 12-year term.

Smirnov said the court had refused to admit as evidence an article that the Russian investigative news site Proekt released on Monday, which reported that much of the information Safronov was accused of divulging was freely available online.

The verdict is set for Sept. 5.

Safronov's detention sent a chill through Russia's already heavily restricted media landscape, where controls have been tightened further since Russian forces invaded Ukraine in February.

Independent media outlets including the Novaya Gazeta newspaper and the independent TV channel Dozhd ("TV Rain") have fled the country, resuming operations abroad.

On Monday, opposition politician Leonid Gozman was arrested under a law passed last year banning comparisons between Nazism and Communism, which carries a maximum sentence of 15 days in prison, Russian news agencies said.

OVD-Info, a site that collates information on detained people and provides legal support, said he had been arrested for a 2020 social media post in which he said Stalin was worse than Hitler.

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