20 August 2020
We consider the conviction of Svetlana Prokopyeva for the offence of public justification of terrorism unlawful and politically motivated. Prokopyeva has been prosecuted for her journalistic activities.
Source: Memorial Human Rights Centre
Memorial Human Rights Centre considers Svetlana Prokopyeva to have been unlawfully prosecuted for political reasons.
Although Prokopyeva has not been imprisoned, we believe it is important to state our position on her case:
- Prokopyeva’s prosecution has been particularly important in the view of the Russian journalistic community and has had a powerful impact on public opinion;
- Prokopyeva’s prosecution continues – the journalist has been fined 500,000 roubles, her equipment confiscated and her name included in the list of terrorists and extremists maintained by the Federal Agency for Financial Monitoring [Rosfinmonitoring]; her appeal against the conviction has yet to be heard.
The history of Prokopyeva’s prosecution
On 7 November 2018 in her radio programme ‘One Minute of Enlightenment’ broadcast on Ekho Moskvy, Svetlana Prokopyeva read a text she had written reflecting on the case of Mikhail Zhlobitsky, a 17-year-old anarchist who had recently blown himself up in the FSB building in Arkhangelsk. She linked the attack to the social and political situation in the country. The next day her piece was published under the heading ‘Repression for the state’ on the website of the Pskov news agency.
Roskomnadzor noticed this publication and began an inspection, appointing several experts to assess the text.
On 5 February 2019 criminal proceedings were instituted against Svetlana Prokopyeva under Article 205.2, Part 2, of the Russian Criminal Code (public incitement of terrorist activity, public justification of terrorism or advocacy of terrorism committed by using the media, electronic or telecommunications networks, including the Internet).
On 20 September 2019 the journalist Prokopyeva was charged and placed under a travel ban pending trial.
All the experts invited by Roskomnadzor and the investigators argued in their conclusions that Prokopyeva’s texts contained evidence of the public justification and advocacy of terrorism. The judgments of alternative experts, who concluded that there was no such evidence, were included in the materials of the criminal case, but the court did not take them into account in reaching its verdict.
On 6 July 2020 the 2nd Western District Military Court found Prokopyeva guilty and fined her 500,000 roubles.
Why is Prokopyeva’s prosecution unlawful and politically motivated?
After the terrorist attack in Arkhangelsk, law enforcement agencies focused their efforts on finding possible accomplices or supporters of the dead anarchist. A number of criminal investigations were opened for the offence of justification of terrorism (Article 205.2 of the Russian Criminal Code), one of which was that of Prokopyeva.
Today, instead of the partially decriminalized Article 282 of the Criminal Code, the main instrument of repression for statements on the Internet is Article 205.2 of the Criminal Code.
Appendix 1 to Article 205.2 states that ‘justification of terrorism is a public statement recognizing the ideology and practice of terrorism as correct, in need of support and emulation.’
Svetlana Prokopyeva’s texts do not contain incitement to acts of terrorism or other violent acts. They are aimed at analysing the causes of the terrorist attack in Arkhangelsk, which cannot and should not qualify as approval or justification of terrorism.
Experts pointed out that psychological evidence for the justification of terrorism is present in the text of ‘Repression for the State’ only on the basis of the selection and extraction of individual fragments.
However, the court found that Prokopyeva had nothing to do with the design or placement of her publications on the sites. Accordingly, Prokopyeva was declared guilty of an act with which she had no connection.
Prokopyeva’s rights to a legal defence and fair trial were grossly violated: the non-disclosure agreement did not allow her to contact specialists to carry out independent analysis within a short period of time.
Another way to put pressure on the journalist, and another violation of her right to a fair trial, was her inclusion in the list of terrorists and extremists maintained by Rosfinmonitoring with the consequent blocking of her bank accounts.
In our assessment, Svetlana Prokopyeva’s prosecution is aimed at obstructing her journalistic work and is essentially an act of censorship. Analysis and awareness of the reasons that push people to commit acts of terrorism are necessary in any society, and the role of a journalist in this process is crucial.
Prohibition of public discussion of such events violates the right to freedom of expression guaranteed by Article 29 of the Constitution of the Russian Federation and Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms. For the journalistic community such a ban means deprivation of the right to engage in their professional activities without censorship.
We believe that the current vicious practice of applying Article 205.2 of the Criminal Code, which has become one of the key instruments for intimidating activists and public critics of the authorities, requires urgent review.
Recognition of an individual as a political prisoner or as a victim of politically motivated prosecution does not imply Memorial Human Rights Centre agrees with, or approves of, their views, statements, or actions.
For more information about this case is available on the website of Memorial Human Rights Centre.
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Translated by Simon Cosgrove