NEW YORK—The show trial of journalist Mykola Semena on charges of separatism is an aberration of the norms of justice squarely aimed at silencing journalism in Crimea, PEN America said in a statement today.

Mykola Semena, a contributor to Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty’s project Krym.Realii (Crimea.Realities,) is a renowned journalist from northern Ukraine who came out of retirement following the 2014 seizure of the region. Semena was first detained on April 19, 2016 on charges of acting against the “territorial integrity of the Russian Federation,” under the Russian Criminal Code’s Article 280.1. Following his brief release, house arrest, secondary detention, and a widely-criticized trial he was found guilty on charges of separatism and handed a suspended sentence of two and-a-half years, and barred from “public activities,” deemed to include journalism, for three years.

“The fact that all the arguments and statements by the defense and experts had not been considered by the court shows that Mykola Semena’s trial is a politically motivated attempt to silence dissent and criticism of Russia in Crimea,” said PEN America Free Expression Programs Manager for Eurasia Polina Kovaleva. “Punishment for the expression of Semena’s opinion on the seizure of Crimea, as well as his award-winning reporting on the issue, is an aberration of justice and a clear violation of free expression norms.”

Since the seizure of Crimea in 2014, Russia has led a concerted campaign to silence criticism of its actions, detaining critics including filmmaker Oleg Sentsov. PEN America remains concerned about attempts to stifle free expression and the shrinking space for critical journalism in Crimea and across Ukraine.

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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.

CONTACT
Anoosh Gasparian, External Relations Coordinator: agasparian@pen.org, +1.646.981.0685