Revenge sentence against Crimean civic journalist Iryna Danilovych upheld despite grotesque charges and ongoing medical torture
The Russian occupation ‘Crimean high court’ took just minutes on 29 June to the monstrous sentence against Iryna Danilovych, courageous nurse, civic journalist and human rights activist. The panel of ‘judges’ reduced the 7-year sentence by a mere month, with this their only recognition of the medical torture that the Russian occupation regime has subjected Iryna to since October 2022. They pretended not to notice the glaring proof that the charges against the civic journalist were fabricated and that she had been abducted, tortured and held incommunicado for over a week while the Russian FSB tried, in vain, to force her to ‘confess’ to preposterous charges. The ‘court’ to consider the fact, pointed out by the defence, that Danilovych had been unable to fully acquaint herself with the case material due to her state of health. This too was a clear violation of her fight to a fair trial.
Presiding ‘judge’ Valeria Chernetska and her two colleagues were aware of the health issues and even called Danilovych’s state of health an extenuating circumstance. This, however, only prompted them to reduce the sentence by one month, to six years and 11 months. The 50 thousand rouble fine was left unchanged.
Everything about Russia’s ‘trial’ and imprisonment of Iryna Danilovich is shocking and the refusal to provide her with proper medical care for an excruciating ear inflammation has probably caused at least partial deafness. Iryna herself had refused to make a final address to the ‘court’ because she was feeling so unwell. She spoke only briefly during the ‘debate’ saying that she had no expectation that justice would be served that day.
She was, unfortunately, right. The ruling on 29 June means that the sentence, only marginally shorter than the 7 years demanded by ‘prosecutors’ Dmitry Lyashchenko and Yulia Matvyeya, and provided by ‘judge’ Natalia Kulinskaya from the occupation ‘Feodosia municipal court’ on 28 December 2022, has now come into force. Iryna will likely be moved away from Crimea, without the urgent need for medical intervention ever having been properly addressed.
Iryna is 43 and was working as a nurse in Feodosia. She headed the Crimean branch of the Alliance of Doctors trade union and spoken publicly about the occupation regime’s lies about the real situation around the covid pandemic and its failure to provide promise supplementary payments to medical workers. She is also a civic journalist who wrote for the human rights initiatives Crimean Process and INzhir Media. Both of these provide vital information about political persecution in occupied Crimea.
This is something that the Russian FSB do not tolerate and it was doubtless a matter of time before Iryna became the latest of many Crimean Tatar or other Ukrainian civic journalists arrested on fabricated charges.
Iryna Danilovich was abducted on 29 April 2022 while waiting for a bus home from her night shift at the Malakhit Medical Centre in Koktebel. She was held incommunicado for well over a week, despite constant efforts by her lawyer to find out her whereabouts and speak with her. The FSB used that period to try to break her into ‘confessing’ to non-existent contacts with foreign organizations and ‘state treason’. When all such methods failed, they decided to claim to have ‘found’ explosives in her glasses case (under Article 222.1 § 1 of Russia’s criminal code).
No attempt was ever made to explain why she would have taken such ‘explosives’ with her to and from her work in a hospital. The ‘court’ ignored that detail, as well as huge discrepancies in the story. It was clear that Kulinskaya understood the problems with the indictment. Although, on 28 December 2022, she handed down the full sentence sought by the prosecution, she removed the part in it about obtaining the explosives as the FSB had not even tried to come up with some plausible explanation.
Not one of the Russian or Russian-controlled actors involved in this case can have been in any doubt that this was a political trial aimed at imprisoning a person who has committed no crime.
Danilovich has insisted from the outset that she was abducted, not ‘arrested’, and her account of the events is backed by CCTV footage of her seizure, by the FSB’s refusal to reveal her whereabouts, as well as by the huge number of discrepancies in their story. The FSB could only claim, without a shred of plausibility, that Danilovich had ‘voluntarily’ remained in their basement, with a bed, a shower, food, and other necessary items. They asserted that she could have left at any moment, but ‘decided to remain’ for want of a place to stay in Simferopol.
The ‘court’ allowed this nonsense, despite the FSB version directly contradicting their own claim that the alleged ‘explosives’ had been found immediately. Had she been in custody because of the explosives from the outset, she would not have been free to leave. If, however, she had not been able to leave, then why had there been no official charges until 7 May?
Please help publicize Russia’s persecution of Iryna Danilovych! This is an appalling sentence which has been passed solely because of Iryna’s courage and refusal to be cowered in the face of mounting repression in occupied Crimea.
An address for letters will be provided as soon as this becomes known.