A Russian reporter faces 24 years in prison for revealing a $2 billion arms deal between Moscow and Cairo

Ivan Safronov could be handed record sentence after being tried on secret evidence behind closed doors

Ivan Safronov (C), detained on suspicion of treason, is escorted ahead of a hearing at Moscow’s Lefortovsky District Court, 7 July 2020, Valery SharifulinTASS via Getty Images

The verdict on whether a Russian journalist will receive a 24-year prison sentence for high treason will be delivered by a court today, MEM reports.

Ivan Safronov was arrested in July 2020 and has been held in pretrial detention since then accused of passing on state secrets to German and Czech intelligence between 2015 and 2017.

At the end of August, a government prosecutor argued that following his release, Safronov should be sentenced to two years of restricted freedom and fined over $8,000.

A former military correspondent for Kommersant and Verdomosti, a Russian business daily, Safronov turned down an offer by a prosecutor who asked him to plead guilty in exchange for a shorter sentence of 12 years.

Analysts say there is little evidence against him, and his defence team say the accusations against him are related to his work as a reporter and that he was targeted for revealing plans for a $2 billion arms deal to Egypt.

According to the independent investigative website Proekt Media, the classified information Safronov is accused of passing on to Western intelligence is already publicly available online.

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) has called the Russian prosecutor’s request to jail Safronov for 24 years “shocking, even by the low standards already set up by the country’s government.”

The CPJ has called on authorities to drop all charges against the journalist and immediately release him.

Since the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February, press freedom in Russia has deteriorated, with journalists being charged with extortion in an apparent retaliation for their work investigating business and political issues, according to the CPJ.

Since President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi’s rise to power in Egypt, human rights groups have slammed the number of countries scrambling to strike arms sales with Cairo.

Egypt is one of the most repressive regimes in the world, with around 60,000 political prisoners who are systematically tortured and denied medical care.

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