HRW: Russian Journalist Facing 'Groundless' Charges

An international human rights watchdog has called on Russian authorities to drop charges against Viktor Korb, a journalist who faces terrorism charges for transcribing and publishing a 2015 speech that a Kremlin critic gave at his trial.

“Human Rights Watch has documented a number of cases of Russian authorities bringing groundless charges for online speech, including for reposting alleged ‘extremist’ information. Now there is one more,” Vladislav Lobanov, research assistant at the New York-based group, said on June 19.

Early on May 18, a team of police and security services’ agents raided the apartment of Korb, a journalist from Omsk in southwestern Siberia, conducted a 10-hour search, and seized electronic devices belonging to him and his family.

Two days later, the journalist was briefly detained by law enforcement officers as he was about to board a flight from Omsk to Moscow. He was told that he was not allowed to leave Omsk due to an ongoing criminal investigation.

Korb is facing a possible sentence of up to seven years in prison if convicted of the charges against him: incitement to terrorism, justification of terrorism, and terrorist propaganda.

The charges stem from a court transcript Korb posted on his website Patriofil in April 2015. It’s the transcript of a speech made by Kremlin critic Boris Stomakhin at his trial. The court jailed Stomakhin on charges of promoting terrorism and extremism, which he described as politically motivated.

Lobanov said that Stomakhin’s closing speech "indeed contains odious, offensive views," but he added that "nowhere in Korb’s publication does he express support of what Stomakhin said in this speech.”

The Paris-based media watchdog Reporters Without Borders (RSF) also called for all charges against Korb to be dropped, saying in a May 25 statement, “Prosecuting a journalist for publishing the text of a speech that was delivered publicly is arbitrary and a perfect example of the absurdity of Russia’s counterterrorism legislation and how it is used.”