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As Trial Resumes In Crimea, Semena Hopes For Acquittal

Crimean journalist Mykola Semena (file photo)
Crimean journalist Mykola Semena (file photo)

A court in Russian-occupied Crimea is to hold a new hearing on August 31 in the trial of Mykola Semena, an RFE/RL contributor who is fighting what he says is a politically motivated separatism charge.

Semena told RFE/RL on August 31 that the trial is entering the final stage in which the prosecution and defense will make statements and prosecutors will give their sentencing recommendation.

Semena expressed confidence that he will be found not guilty despite the politically charged nature of the trial on the Russian-controlled Ukrainian peninsula and the fact that acquittals are very rare in Russian courts.

"The trial has proceeded in such a contradictory way, and we have provided so much material supporting a journalist's right to free speech under Russian and international law, that I think I will be acquitted," Semena said.

He said he expects to testify at the hearing.

"We will continue proving my innocence, my right to express my thoughts freely, and my right to take part in any discussions no matter what is my point of view," Semena said.

The charge against the 66-year-old Semena stems from an article he wrote for RFE/RL's Krym.Realii (Crimea Realities) website in 2015.

The Kremlin-installed prosecutor in Crimea charged that the article had called for the violation of Russia's territorial integrity.

Earlier in the trial, linguist Elena Novozhilova testified that, in her opinion, Semena's article did not contain calls for the violation of Russia's territorial integrity.

Semena, whose trial started in March, faces up to five years in prison if convicted.

He contends that the accusation is baseless and politically motivated, and that Russian authorities have based the case on an inaccurate Russian translation of his original Ukrainian text.

Rights groups say the trial is part of a systematic Russian clampdown on independent media and dissent in Crimea since Moscow's armed occupation and takeover of the Black Sea peninsula in 2014.