Russian journalist found guilty of ‘justifying terrorism’ over opinion piece

Trial for Svetlana Prokopyeva lasted for months ahead of the judge passed down the ruling on Monday – Anton Vaganov/Reuters

A Russian court has convicted a journalist of “justifying terrorism” after she wrote an opinion article suggesting a teenage suicide bomber was driven to the act by anger at the repression of law enforcement agencies. 

Svetlana Prokopyeva was on trial for a year over a 2018 radio piece in which she said the 17-year-old bomber “did not see any other way to express his protest.”

Prosecutors shocked Russia’s journalist community on Friday by asking the court to send the girl to prison for six years.

The court in the north-western city of Pskov on Monday found Ms Prokopyeva guilty of justifying terrorism and fined her 500,000 rubles (some £5,000). The judge also seized her laptop and phone.

Ms Prokopyeva told a crowd of applauding supporters beyond your court that their campaigning was essential in helping her to escape a prison sentence.

She denied the charges and said she would appeal.

Russian journalists have faced threats and intimidation recently, and newsrooms critical of the government have now been disbanded under apparent pressure from the Kremlin

Yet Ms Prokopyeva’s case marks a rare attempt to prosecute a journalist over an opinion piece

In a column for the Ekho Moskvy radio station in Pskov, Ms Prokopyeva spoke about the political environment that drove Mikhail Zhlobitsky to blow himself up in the lobby of the FSB intelligence agency in the north-western city of Arkhangelsk in October 2018.

Just minutes before he committed suicide, the 17-year old student issued a statement on a public messaging app saying that he was protesting from the FSB “which trumps up charges and tortures people.”

In a column that was ordered by the court to own been taken offline, Ms Prokopyeva wrote that a “a stern state with a violent law enforcement system that views punishing a criminal as more important than defending rights has bred this new generation of citizens.”

“The boy who was born and grew up in Putin’s Russia did not see any other way to express his protest against torture and trumped-up charges.”

She compared the attack to a decade of terrorist bombings in Russia in the late 19th century when young anarchists people to violence in protest heavy handed tactics and repression of the czar’s government. 

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