Ivan Safronov, a 32-year-old journalist who worked for the newspapers Kommersant and Vedomosti, was sentenced in September to 22 years in prison, following over two years of detention in the notorious Lefortovo detention center. The case was particularly shocking and the verdict egregious because Safronov was accused of espionage, of leaking “secrets” to the West that were not secrets at all, but information publicly available to anyone with access to the internet.
Safronov had repeatedly refused to make a deal with the investigation, and his defense team faced unprecedented pressure. His lead lawyer, Ivan Pavlov, had to leave the country after he too was subjected to a criminal investigation. Safronov’s final statement in court, the so-called “last word,” was published in full by BBC Russian Service. We are publishing an abridged translation:
For half a year, we have been hearing the criminal case against me, which accuses me of espionage benefitting NATO countries: the Czech Republic and Germany. I have been held in the Lefortovo detention center for over two years. The preliminary investigation took almost as long. Before that, I was under surveillance by the Russian security services for six years. First, field officers, and then investigators, sought ways to characterize my journalism so it would be subject to an article of the Criminal Code that carries up to 20 years in prison. Rather than get to the bottom of the situation, investigators tried to fit the life I was living and work I was doing within the criteria of espionage.
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