Russia jails ‘extremist’ investigative reporter Alexander Sokolov

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A Russian court has jailed an investigative reporter for “extremism” over his work with a group campaigning for laws to make officials accountable.

Alexander Sokolov worked at the RBC news group when he was arrested in July 2015 on suspicion of participating in a banned group.

The court in Moscow convicted the journalist over his involvement in an online group called ‘For Responsible Government’.

The group has campaigned for a referendum on a new law that would allow officials to be held to account.

Prosecutors said Sokolov, 29, had created a website for the group and administered it.

But they said ‘For Responsible Government’ was a cover for another organisation – banned in 2010 for being “extremist” – which wanted to use violence to overthrow the government.

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Authorities said the ‘For Responsible Government’ website was a front for extremism

He was sentenced to three-and-a-half years in jail.

Sokolov said his arrest came two weeks after an investigative report was published looking at government overspending on a new space port.

The report alleged embezzlement of 93 billion roubles (£1.2bn) of public funds during the construction of the cosmodrome in the Far East, a pet project of President Vladimir Putin.

Sokolov denied any involvement in criminal wrongdoing and said he would appeal against the conviction.

He said: “According to this decision, the idea itself of a referendum is seen as extremist. We have not finished yet, we will keep fighting.”

Alexander Sokolov's supporters gathered outside the court in Moscow
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Alexander Sokolov’s supporters gathered outside the court in Moscow

Media rights activists denounced the conviction.

Reporters Without Borders said the charges against Sokolov were “unsubstantiated” and described the country’s anti-extremism laws as “arbitrary”.

Russia’s media community has spoken also out in his defence, with nearly 300 journalists signing a letter of support.

Solokov has worked for RBC since 2013. It has been a respected group known for investigations into sensitive subjects, such as Russia’s involvement in the conflicts in eastern Ukraine and Syria.

Two of Sokolov’s co-defendants were sentenced to four years and the third was given a suspended sentence.

Several journalists and human rights activists have been targeted in Russia.

Journalist Anna Politkovskaya, a prominent critic of Mr Vladimir Putin, was gunned down at her Moscow apartment block on 7 October 2006.



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