MOSCOW ( Associated Press) — A Moscow court rejected an appeal Wednesday for a former journalist convicted of treason and sentenced to 22 years in prison after a trial that many see as politically charged.
The appeals court upheld the September ruling against Ivan Safronov, who was a military affairs reporter for the Kommersant financial daily before becoming an adviser to Russia’s Roscosmos space agency.
The trial comes at a time when authorities have mounted a sweeping crackdown on the press and opposition since the war in Ukraine began in February.
Safronov was accused of passing military secrets to Czech intelligence and a German citizen. He insisted on his innocence, saying that the trial was “absurd” and that he had done nothing illegal. He claims that, as a journalist, he published information gathered from sources within government agencies and military industries.
Safronov, who has been detained since his arrest in Moscow in July 2020, says he never had access to classified information and authorities have not produced any evidence to substantiate the espionage allegations .
His allies say the trial is baseless and have pushed for Safronov’s release. He says Russian officials may have sought to retaliate against him for exposing military incidents and opaque military behavior.
The European Union has called on Russia to drop all charges against Safronov and “unconditionally release him”, condemning the “regime’s systematic suppression of independent journalism”.
Human rights activists, journalists, scientists and corporate executives accused of treason in Russia in recent years have found it difficult to defend themselves because of the secrecy of their cases and the lack of public access to the information.
Safronov’s father also worked for Kommersant, covering military issues after retiring from the armed forces. He died in a fall from the sale of his apartment in Moscow in 2007.
Officials say it was a suicide. Some Russian media disputed the official version, noting that he had plans to publish a report on secret deals to send arms to Iran and Syria.