Russia jails former journalist Ivan Safronov for 22 years for treason

Safronov is accused of handing details of Russian military, defence and security to foreign intelligence

Ivan Safronov before the court session in Moscow on Monday. Moscow City Court via AP
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A Moscow court on Monday jailed respected former defence reporter Ivan Safronov for 22 years on treason charges for divulging state secrets on Monday.

Safronov, 32, will serve the time in a "strict regime penal colony", the judge said, according to AFP.

He was one of Russia's most respected journalists, covering defence, politics and the country's space programme and worked for business newspapers Kommersant and Vedomosti.

Safronov appeared handcuffed in court on Monday inside a glass cage and wearing a grey tracksuit and a black puffy vest.

About 100 people gathered in the Moscow courthouse for the verdict, applauding Safronov and chanting "Freedom", after the sentence was read out.

Safronov smiled and shouted out "I love you!" before he was taken out of the courtroom, AFP reported.

His lawyer Dmitry Kachev said the verdict could not be called "anything other than inadequate" and said Safronov was sentenced for his "journalistic work".

His lawyers said they would appeal against the verdict.

Safronov was arrested in July 2020, after leaving journalism to serve as an adviser to the head of the state space agency.

He was accused of collecting confidential information about Russian military, defence and security and handing it to foreign intelligence.

Safronov's case was heard behind closed doors based on evidence that was also kept secret.

Prosecutors last week requested a sentence of 24 years in jail for Safronov, after he reportedly turned down a plea deal for a shorter sentence.

At the start of his trial in April, he called the case a "complete travesty of justice" and said he was not guilty.

The former journalist has said his reporting was based on analysis of open sources and conversations with officials.

Safronov's case caused a backlash from independent journalists and his former colleagues.

On Monday, a dozen independent media, including Novaya Gazeta, published a statement demanding his release, saying the harsh sentence was "revenge" for his work.

Updated: September 06, 2022, 4:50 AM