7 December 2022
by Lev Shlosberg
An appeal court has upheld the sentence in the case of Ivan Safronov. The journalist, whose guilt was not only unproven, but obviously non-existent, was given 22 years in a strict regime penal colony for ‘high treason’ which he did not commit.
Twenty-two years of one’s life for not incriminating yourself or others, for not striking a deal with your conscience, for not committing an act of despicable meanness and for not being a coward. That is the price of maintaining one’s honour today. Not everyone would be able to withstand such pressure. Ivan has.
Many people ask today, as on the day of the verdict: how do those servants of the sovereign power – the investigators, the prosecutors and the judges – feel now? Do their consciences not make them suffer?
They feel just fine. They are not tormented by their consciences. They are completely indifferent to the fate of the people whose lives they ruin. They get their salaries for destroying others’ lives, and they know it.
The huge problem with the issue of rehabilitation of the victims of political repression in the twentieth century has been the complete absence (during both the Soviet Union and in the new Russian period) of a mechanism, based on law, for prosecuting all the organizers and participants in political criminal cases. They ruined lives and executed millions of people, but almost all of them avoided being held to account – in both a legal and a political sense.
If this mistake had not been made, the country’s historical development would have taken a different path. Punishment for political crimes is the only thing that can protect and guarantee society from a return of repression.
This mistake must not be repeated in the future.
To Ivan Safronov, his family, and friends: I wish you strength and love for one another.
I hope your nightmare will end long before this life-destroying sentence has run its term.
And yes, there must be lawful retribution.
Translated by Simon Cosgrove