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Trial Of RFE/RL Contributor Semena Resumes In Crimea

Mykola Semena faces up to five years in prison if convicted.

The trial of RFE/RL contributor Mykola Semena, a Crimean journalist who is fighting what he says is a politically motivated separatism charge on the Russian-controlled peninsula, has resumed in the Crimean capital, Simferopol.

At a court session on May 10, two witnesses gave testimony and the judge scheduled the next hearing for May 22. A Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) employee is expected to testify at that hearing.

Semena faces up to five years in prison if convicted by Russia, which has jailed several Crimeans who have opposed or criticized Moscow's 2014 seizure of the Black Sea peninsula from Ukraine.

Semena's trial has been adjourned three times for different reasons since it started on March 20.

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 authorities in Crimea have charged that the article called for the violation of Russia's territorial integrity.

Semena says he is innocent. He says that Crimea's status was and remains in dispute and that he has the right to openly express his opinion.

The United States, the European Union, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), and international media watchdogs have expressed concern about the prosecution of Semena.

Activists say his trial is part of a persistent Russian clampdown on independent media and dissent in Crimea since Moscow's takeover.

RFE/RL President Thomas Kent has described the case against Semena as "part of a concerted effort by Russian and Russian-backed authorities to obstruct RFE/RL's journalistic mission to provide an independent press to residents of Crimea."

After a Moscow-friendly Ukrainian president fled in the face of pro-European protests in February 2014, Russia seized control of Crimea after sending in troops and staging a referendum considered illegitimate by Kyiv, the United States, and a total of 100 UN member states.

The United States, the European Union, and other countries imposed sanctions on Russia over the takeover of Crimea and say they will not be lifted until it is returned to Kyiv's control.