NEW YORK—The sentencing of Ukrainian journalist Roman Sushchenko to 12 years’ imprisonment in Russia without producing a shred of evidence of his guilt is a brutal violation of human rights, PEN America said in a statement today.

On June 4, Roman Sushchenko, a Paris-based correspondent for Ukraine’s state news agency, Ukrinform, was found guilty on the charges of espionage by the Moscow City Court and sentenced to serve 12 years in a maximum security prison in Russia. Since 2002, Sushchenko has worked as a correspondent for Ukrinform, a Ukrainian news agency, and continued doing so from Paris after moving in 2010. He has exposed Russian propaganda in French news outlets on a number of occasions, and expressed harsh criticism of the Russian documentary Ukraine: Masks of the Revolution, broadcasted.

On September 30, 2016, Roman Sushchenko was detained in Moscow on charges of espionage, and was held in Lefortovo Prison for over a year and a half awaiting trial. The Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) accused Sushchenko of working for the Ukrainian Defense Ministry and gathering classified information about the Russian military during his visit. He denied these allegations, claiming that he was in Moscow for personal reasons that were unrelated to his work at the time of his arrest. Sushchenko also stated that he was psychologically tortured by the Russian authorities and denied the right to call his wife, who only learned about his detention three days after his initial disappearance, despite the fact that the international law required the Russian government to contact Suschneko’s family, employer, and the Ukrainian government.

“We are deeply troubled by the deteriorating conditions for free expression in Russia, and a growing number of journalists and writers wrongfully prosecuted and repressed by the Russian government, including Roman Sushchenko and Oleg Sentsov,” said PEN America Project Director for Eurasia Polina Kovaleva. “We call for immediate and unconditional release of Roman Sushchenko.”

Sushchenko’s conviction comes only a week before the 2018 FIFA World Cup that Russia is hosting begins, as well as in the middle of Oleg Sentsov’s hunger strike that he announced on May 14. You can find out more about Roman Sushchenko here.

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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. pen.org

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Anoosh Gasparian, External Relations Coordinator: agasparian@pen.org​