The trial of Russian journalist Ivan Safronov begins today. He is accused of high treason. During almost two years of arrest, the former Kommersant employee was not allowed a single visit from his family, was not allowed to call his mother on her birthday, receive her letters, or contact his lawyers. Despite the unprecedented pressure, Ivan Safronov did not confess and continues to insist on his innocence. Safronov's trial will be closed to the public and the media. Medusa published Ivan Safronov's statement to the court, The Insider publishes the translation:
My stance on the bill of indictment.
I hereby declare that I plead not guilty of having committed two crimes as charged under Article 275 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation, «high treason in the form of espionage.»
I wish to express my thoughts on the accusation.
I have been charged with a crime not envisaged by the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation.
There is no mention in Article 275 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation of «collecting information constituting a state secret and handing it over to a representative of a foreign state or a foreign organization.»
According to the requirements of the criminal law and the criminal procedure law, it is inadmissible to present charges in connection with a crime which is not stipulated by the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation.
I did not commit the crimes that I've been charged with.
The actions that I am charged with are solely related to my professional journalistic activities and have nothing to do with the commission of a crime. AS part of my professional activity I was indeed getting information from public sources related to my professional profile, war journalism.
Possessing relevant professional skills and being able to analyze the information in my possession and to draw conclusions from it, I prepared journalistic materials that did not contain a single letter or a single figure that had been obtained secretly, let alone illegally.
Moreover, the case file not only lacks any information from which it would be possible to understand from whom, when, under what circumstances and what information constituting a state secret I allegedly «collected», but the investigators directly claim in a number of procedural documents that the circumstances have not been established by the investigation.
It's not just illegal, it's extremely outrageous to accuse me of a very grave crime, treason in the form of espionage, without explaining what those acts of treason and espionage consisted of.
During the preliminary investigation, I told investigator A.S. Chaban dozens of times that I could easily show him the open sources from which I had collected the data I used when writing journalistic materials.
I needed a few hours and a computer to prove my innocence: I could show the investigator the open sources that contained all the information I used in my work.
I am in prison, I don't have a computer there. Lawyers were not able to visit my detention facility more often than once a month. These are the conditions in the detention center. And not only in the detention center, but even in the investigator's office, where I periodically met with my lawyers, they were not allowed to bring either a laptop or a smartphone, not even clean sheets of paper or law books!
Under such conditions, how was I supposed to prove my innocence other than by asking the investigator to provide me with Internet access?
The investigator denied my own and my counsel's requests, cynically relying that «providing Safronov I. I. with access to the Internet is beyond the scope of the investigator's authority.»
It is indeed the utmost cynicism, if not a crime against justice - to accuse a person of committing a very grave crime, punishable by up to 20 years in prison, and deprive him of the opportunity to defend himself.
At the same time I have never been granted permission to access state secrets. No one ever introduced me to the regulatory acts defining state secrets.
I did not know and could not have known that the information I had used as a journalist and obtained from open sources was allegedly classified as a state secret.
And I don't know that to this day. But I do know that there is no crime without guilt. Therefore, I am absolutely sure I cannot be convicted for disseminating information that I collected legally and openly as a journalist. Information that was in the public domain. Information that I did not know was, and could not even imagine being, a state secret.
More to the point. I am accused that the information I disseminated constitutes a state secret.
I ask: who told me that this information is really secret? In response, I am told that it is stated in some secret regulations, orders, and instructions. But I do not know these secret orders and instructions, just as any person in the street does not know about them! Show me those orders and instructions, I don't have to believe every word the prosecution says; I can't defend myself against an accusation I don't understand!
Neither I nor my lawyers have access to this «secret» regulatory documentation. There is no such regulatory documentation in the case file. Nor is it available from the public domain. It was not mentioned in the charge order, and there is no description of it in the bill of indictment.
My counsel repeatedly asked that it be clarified to them which regulation says the information I had allegedly disseminated can be classified as a state secret and that they be familiarized with such regulation. The investigator responded by saying the lawyers had no right to become familiarized with legal acts or documents which constitute a state secret.
This is a complete mockery of the law and common sense!
Explain to me, how can one defend himself against a charge, which is subject to the provisions of the laws hidden from the defendant and his counsel?
The charge is absolutely unclear to me.
I have asked the investigator many times to explain it to me, but my request was repeatedly denied. I have said this dozens of times and I will now say it in front of the court: I am unable to defend myself against a charge that I not only don't understand, but I am sure the prosecution itself does not understand either.
So, I will be forced to repeat what I've told the investigator dozens of times:
The charge against me does not contain a description of the acts of which I am accused. There is no indication in the charge of what kind of information constituting state secrets I have allegedly passed on to a representative of a foreign state or a foreign organization. There is no such description in the bill of indictment either. I cannot defend myself against a charge that has not been properly formulated.
The charge brought against me does not specify from whom, when, under what circumstances and what information constituting a state secret I have allegedly collected. There is no such description in the bill of indictment either. I am not able to refute the events of which I have no knowledge.
I do not understand the charge where is says I allegedly received «illegal» and «criminal» income from my «criminal activity». Explain to me what kind of money is involved, where, when and why I received it, and then I will be happy to prove the money had nothing to do with any illegal or criminal activity!
I am accused of «espionage assignments received from *****» and supposedly of «collecting information of interest to NATO which constitutes a state secret». I have already said that the charge does not specify what this «information» was about. But I also do not understand when I allegedly collected this information. This information is not in the charge order, nor is it in the bill of indictment.
Put yourself in my place: you are told you have committed a crime, but you are not told what crime and when. How will you defend yourself against this absurdity?
Dozens of witnesses were interrogated, including high-ranking government officials. Not a single one of those interrogated admitted he had given me any information constituting a state secret.
There are hundreds of hours of secret «wiretaps» of my conversations over several years, including with the highest level officials. None of the wiretaps contain even a hint of me obtaining any information constituting a state secret.
My apartment was bugged for several years; I was literally tailed. And again, not a single trace of my «espionage activities» was found.
The most amazing thing was that the prosecution admitted it! The bill of indictment is blunt: the investigation was unable to understand where I had obtained the data that allegedly constituted a «state secret». So, I'm telling you where I got it - from the Internet, from official publications, from newspaper articles, from open-source analytical papers written by my colleagues!
According to the law, my counsel and I have the right to inform the investigator about the persons who should be summoned by the court to be questioned and to confirm the position of the defense. And the investigator must include those persons in the list of witnesses.
We did so. We asked to include 29 witnesses in the list of persons who must be summoned to the court hearing from the side of the defendant, most of whom had already been interrogated by the investigator. We also asked to summon more than 10 experts and specialists who had taken part in the investigation of the case.
The Criminal Procedure Code of the Russian Federation does not contain any provisions allowing the investigator to deny such a request of the defense counsel. However, the investigator denied our request. Not a single one of over 40 persons indicated by the defense counsel was included in the list of witnesses. Not one of them!
This is simply unthinkable. I am being denied my right to defend myself. I am being denied the right to defend myself in principle!
And I understand what this is about.
On the one hand all the people I have named will testify that I did not commit a crime. On the other hand, most of them will have to explain their actions. There are dozens of hours of audio recordings of conversations with «witnesses» from among the highest ranks of government officials. And what many of them said often boiled down to unflattering characteristics of the actions and personal qualities of Russia's highly placed political figures.
But it is one thing to accuse a journalist without any legal or moral basis. It is an entirely different matter to point fingers to high-ranking officials.
But at the same time the fact is that in my journalistic materials I have never used a single word, nor a single careless or boastful expression those people may have uttered regarding the personal traits or actions of any high-ranking official if I felt those words could really harm my country, undercut someone's authority or demonstrate a weakness. And these are not empty words - there is not a single letter in the charge that suggests otherwise.
To my regret, the court in preliminary hearing did not consider the refusal to include the witnesses, suggested by the defense, into the list as a gross violation of the law. To say it depresses me is to say nothing.
Am I really not allowed to defend myself in court against the charges by presenting evidence of my innocence? What the point then of standing trial? The court has asked the defense counsel to bring witnesses on their own. I'm sorry, but I'm in jail and I can't do that. And I can't imagine how my counsel can do it, given the high official position of a number of witnesses. I think my counsel will be put away immediately as soon as they attempt to meet with some of the witnesses or experts.
There have been horrendous violations of my right to defend myself in this case.
They are detailed in the petitions filed by my counsel. We will insist on the recognition of this fact. There can be no verdict if the defendant is not allowed to defend himself.
Now I want to give just one example. Four times, at the stage of preliminary investigation my counsel complained to the court of the investigator's the actions and decisions, which violated my constitutional right of defense. The complaints were filed since September 17, 2021. According to the Criminal Procedure Code of the Russian Federation, such complaints must be considered within five days of their receipt by the court. In fact, to date, the court has not issued a final decision on any of the complaints. Not five days but more than six months have passed, but none of the complaints submitted to the court have been fully considered. And now the proceedings on the complaints will be terminated due to the fact that my case has been accepted by the court.
In addition, my defense counsel and I have not been familiarized with the case materials. The familiarization with the case has been illegally halted by the investigator, as the petitions of my counsel state in detail.
* * *
I do not know whether my words or my request will make any impression on the court. But I have no choice but to ask the court to listen to what I'm saying: I have committed no crime. For a year and nine months they've been trying to make me say I am guilty of high treason. But I repeat and will continue to repeat: I am not guilty.
I will be asking the court for assistance in restoring my violated right of defense. To this end, the court, in my opinion, should order that:
- the prosecution clarify the charge allegedly «brought» against me. I am unable to defend myself against something which is not formulated in the charge order.
- I be allowed to become familiarized with the regulations which I allegedly violated. I am not in a position to refute a violation of the laws which I'm not aware of or which have not been shown to me.
- I be provided with an opportunity to access the Internet to find and subsequently provide the court with evidence that all the information I collected and disseminated was in the public domain and, therefore, my actions did not constitute a crime of treason in the form of espionage. I have the right to refute the false arguments of the trumped-up charge accusing me of being a public criminal.
- all the defense witnesses, as well as all the experts and specialists, for whose inclusion in the list of witnesses I requested the investigator, be summoned to court. I have the right to present evidence of my innocence.
- I be provided with an opportunity for an additional study of the case materials. I have the right to know what, in the opinion of the investigators, the proof of my guilt is.