Russian Blogger Sentenced to Two Years in Prison
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
The Russian blogger Alexey Kungurov has been convicted and sentenced to two years’ imprisonment in a penal colony for criticizing Russia’s military operations in Syria.
Kungurov, a blogger from Russian Siberia, was charged with “public calls to terrorism” (Part 1, Article 205.2 of the Criminal Code) for a post on LiveJournal, titled “Who are Putin’s Falcons Actually Bombing,” in which he criticized Russian military operations in Syria.
According to Kungurov’s wife Asiya Bayshikhina, who has continued publishing blogposts under his handle @kungurov, the sentence was based solely on the subjective expertise of Vladimir Lysov, an Associate Professor at Tyumen State University. Bayshikhina questioned Lysov’s ability to provide “linguistic expertise” of the blogpost. Kungurov’s trial, which started last week, was closed to the public because Lysov complained that he was threatened with murder.
“This is not the first time the Russian government has used the excuse of extremism or terrorism prevention to suppress critical voices who speak out against its military operations,” said Polina Kovaleva, Free Expression Program Coordinator for Eurasia at PEN America. “We urge Russian authorities to drop the charges against Kungurov, and to let him and other bloggers and social media users exercise their right to free expression without fear of reprisal.”
The criminal case against Kungurov follows a trend of persecution of independent journalists and bloggers, as documented in PEN America’s report Discourse in Danger: Attacks on Free Expression in Putin’s Russia. The Russian human rights organizations Memorial and Owl found no justification of terrorism in the post by Kungurov, whom Memorial had listed earlier this year among a tally of Russian political prisoners.
PEN America stands at the intersection of literature and human rights to protect open expression in the United States and worldwide. We champion the freedom to write, recognizing the power of the word to transform the world. Our mission is to unite writers and their allies to celebrate creative expression and defend the liberties that make it possible.