18 June 2020
Lev Shlosberg, human rights defender, public figure, member of the Pskov Regional Assembly, journalist, and laureate of a Moscow Helsinki Group award for human rights
Yesterday, for the first time in my life, I testified before a military court. At Pskov Regional Court, in a hall with Italianate wooden galleries and overhead lights, three men in judicial robes are conducting the trial of my colleague, the journalist Sveta Prokopyeva. She is accused of justifying terrorism in a column she published in which she discussed the possible causes of the suicide bombing carried out by a young man at the entrance to the office of the Federal Security Service in Arkhangelsk in October 2018.
I was questioed by the prosecutor, the presiding judge and the lawyers. I spoke absolutely freely and fully, and I said exactly what I thought needed to be said.
Let me say it again: Svetlana Prokopyeva is entirely innocent. Carrying our her professional duties as a journalist, she commented on the tragedy that occurred in Arkhangelsk (essentially — in Russia) and asked society the fundamental questions that it is reasonable for a journalist to ask: why did this happen, and what responsibility for it lies with the state?
What occurred was a tragedy. Failure to investigate the specific personal and social causes of every individual case leads to the innumerable repetition of other such tragedies. The response to publicly expressed questions concerning the origins of such tragedies should not be to open a criminal case in which an individual can be sentenced to up to seven years in prison, but rather to seek answers to the questions that have been raised. This is the responsibility of everyone who does not want to see more such tragedies.
Svetlana Prokopyeva is entirely innocent. She did not commit the crime of which she is accused. If the court is going to act within justice and the law, it will acquit her. No other court decision will be either legal or just.
Translated by Elizabeth Teague