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Journalist Semena Says Russian Charge 'Not Legal But Political'


Journalist Mykola Semena speaks to reporters at the start of his trial in Simferopol on March 20.

Mykola Semena, an RFE/RL contributor who is being tried by a Russian court in Crimea, says that he is being prosecuted for political reasons.

Semena spoke to RFE/RL on April 17, a day before his trial on a separatism charge was to resume after a two-week hiatus.

"The charge against me is not legal but political," Semena said.

He said that while the Russian Constitution guarantees the freedom of expression, "in fact people are being prosecuted for that."

The charges stem from a 2015 article he wrote for RFE/RL's Krym.Realii (Crimea Realities) website that Russian authorities allege called for the violation of Russia's territorial integrity.

Semena is being prosecuted over an article he wrote for RFE/RL's Krym.Realii (Crimea Realities) website in 2015 in which he criticized Russia's seizure of Crimea from Ukraine the previous year.

Russian authorities allege that he was calling for the violation of Russia's territorial integrity. He faces up to five years in prison if convicted.

Semena, 66, says he is not guilty, contending that he has the right to openly express his opinions and that Crimea's status was and remains the subject of dispute.

The United States, the European Union, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), and international media watchdogs have expressed concern about his prosecution, which activists say is part of a Russian clampdown on independent media and dissent in Crimea.

The trial began on March 20, but was swiftly adjourned until April 3 and was then adjourned again until April 18.

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