Lawyer defending Ukrainian journalist accused by Russia of ‘spying’ stripped of his status
Mark Feygin, the well-known Russian lawyer representing imprisoned Ukrainian journalist Roman Sushchenko, has been stripped of his lawyer’s status by the Moscow Chamber of Defence Lawyers [Адвокатская палата Москвы ]. This was officially a disciplinary matter, initiated by the Russian justice ministry following three tweets, one of which contained foul language. Feygin asserts that the decision was politically-motivated and links it with his defence of Sushchenko. Whether the link with Sushchenko is the reason is not clear since his is not the first Russian politically motivated trial of Ukrainians which Feygin has been involved in. The development is, nonetheless, of immense concern in the middle of Sushchenko’s ‘trial’ in Moscow on ‘spying’ charges.
The prosecution has just finished presenting its ‘evidence’ against Sushchenko during closed court hearings in Moscow. The defence is due to present its evidence on May 25.
Roman Sushchenko has been in Russian detention since September 30, 2016. The then 47-year-old journalist was seized by FSB officers shortly after arriving in Moscow where he has close relatives.
On Oct 3, the FSB claimed that the Ukrainian journalist, who had been working for six years as Paris correspondent for the Ukrinform news agency, was a colonel in Ukraine’s Military Intelligence, who had been gathering secret information about the activities of the Russian army and forces of the National Guard. The FSB asserted that the information, if leaked abroad, could have caused damage to the state’s defence capacity.
This appears to be the line that the FSB is now taking, though the ‘trial’ is closed to journalists and international observers, and Feygin had been forced to sign an undertaking not to divulge any information.
From the information that Feygin has been able to reveal, it seems likely that Sushchenko was ‘set up’, by being asked to take a disk back to Paris for another journalist. The most disturbing aspect of this story is that Sushchenko had agreed to take the disk for a person he has known for 28 years. Since he was arrested while receiving the disk, the person was almost certainly involved.
Feygin has said that he is facing a 20-year sentence, but that this is if Sushchenko continues to deny the charges. He has reported before that the journalist has been under enormous pressure to ‘admit’ the charges, with one of the methods used being effective blackmail over the sentence. Ukrainian filmmaker Oleg Sentsov reported as soon as he was finally allowed to see a lawyer, almost a month after his arrest in Crimea, that he had been tortured and threatened that if he didn’t provide the ‘testimony’ demanded, he would get 20 years “and rot in prison”. Sentsov refused and was indeed sentenced in August 2015 to 20 years for literally nothing.
Sushchenko has been imprisoned in the Lefortovo Prison in Moscow ever since, with only a very small number of visits allowed from his wife Angela and adult daughter Julia and not one from his 11-year-old son Maxim.
Please write to Roman Sushchenko!
All letters tell him and Moscow that he is not forgotten. The letters must be in Russian, and please avoid talking about politics or any other ‘sensitive’ subject.
If Russian is a problem, the following would be fine, maybe with a picture or photo.
Желаю Вам здоровья, мужества и терпения, надеюсь на скорое освобождение.
Мы о Вас помним.
[Hello, I wish you good health, courage and patience and hope that you will soon be released. You are not forgotten. ]
111020, Moscow, 5 Lefortovsky Val, Lefortovo remand prison No. 2, postbox 201
Sushchenko Roman Vladimirovich (b. 1969)
[Russian: 111020, г. Москва, ул. Лефортовский Вал, 5, СИЗО-2 “Лефортово” ФСИН России, Е20, а/я 201, Сущенко Роману Владимировичу, 1969 г.р