Unprepared Russian Prosecutor Wins Delay In Crimean Journalist's Trial

SIMFEROPOL -- The trial of Crimean journalist Mykola Semena will resume later this month after the first hearing in weeks produced little progress toward a resolution of the politically charged case.

The judge adjourned the trial after a brief session on August 31 in which a prosecutor who had been due to speak said she was unprepared, defense lawyer Aleksandr Popkov told RFE/RL.

Semena, a contributor to RFE/RL, is fighting what he says is a baseless, politically motivated separatism charge at the trial in the Crimean capital, Simferopol.

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.

According to Popkov, the prosecutor who was due to speak requested more time to prepare, saying that she needed to discuss details with a different prosecutor who was responsible for the text of the official charge against Semena.

Judge Nadezhda Shkolnaya granted the request and scheduled the next hearing for September 18, Popkov said.

The charge against Semena, 66, 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.

Semena, whose trial started in March, faces up to five years in prison if convicted. The last hearing before August 31 took place on August 3.

Semena contends, among other things, that Russian authorities based the case on an inaccurate Russian translation of his original Ukrainian text.

Before the adjournment, the judge rejected Popkov's motion to exclude translations of the article from Ukrainian and English into Russian from the case materials.

The defense lawyer argued that the translations were not done by a licensed translator.

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