22 Sep 2017 19:53

Radio Liberty reporter given suspended sentence in Crimea

SIMFEROPOL. Sept 22 (Interfax) - Simferopol's Zheleznodorozhny District Court given Mykola Semena, a contributor to the Radio Liberty's Krym.Realii (Crimea.Realities) online media, suspended sentence of two years and six months, finding him guilty of calls for separatism, an Interfax correspondent reported from the courtroom.

"Semena could be reformed without sentencing to an actual prison term. [The court ruled] to give him suspended sentence of two years and six months," the judge said.

In addition, the 67-year-old journalist was banned from engaging in any public work for three years.

Semena's lawyer Emil Kurbedinov said he intends to appeal against the sentence at the Crimean Supreme Court.

"We believe he should have been given no other sentence but acquittal," he told Interfax.

During arguments earlier this week, the state prosecution requested the court to give him suspended sentence of three years. The defense team insisted on acquittal.

In the spring of 2016, the Federal Security Service directorate for Crimea initiated a case against the journalist on the charge of publically calling for actions aimed at violating Russia's territorial integrity in the media or online. Semena was placed under travel restrictions. Due to this case, he was added to the federal list of terrorists and extremists.

The grounds for criminal prosecution were an article posted on the website of the Krym.Realii project, the office of which is located in Kyiv, titled "A blockade is a necessary step towards Crimea's liberation." "The author of the publication has made statements calling for isolating actions, including combat operations, against the peninsula and its residents," the Crimean prosecution's press service said.

The judicial proceedings in the Semena case began in March 2017.

Semena pleaded not guilty.

The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe's (OSCE) Representative on Freedom of the Media, Dunja Mijatovic, urged the Russian side to cease the journalist's prosecution. Ukrainian authorities and the United States Embassy in Russia condemned the case against Semena.

Senior citizen Semena has dual nationality of Ukraine and Russia and no criminal record.

Crimea joined Russia after a local referendum in March 2014. Ukraine does not recognize the referendum results and considers Crimea as its own temporarily occupied territory. The U.S. and European Union member states describe Russia's actions leading to the peninsula reunification with Russia as annexation and have introduced sanctions against a number of Russian companies, politicians, and businesspeople.