Clooney Foundation To Monitor Russian Journalist's Trial For 'Justifying Terrorism'

PSKOV, Russia -- The Clooney Foundation for Justice (CFJ), a human rights watchdog founded by Hollywood star George Clooney and his wife, Lebanese-British lawyer Amal Clooney, will be monitoring the high-profile trial of Russian journalist Svetlana Prokopyeva, who is accused of "justifying terrorism."

Prokopyeva’s lawyer Tatyana Martynova told RFE/RL on June 22 that the CFJ will be represented at the trial in the northwestern Russian city of Pskov by lawyer Maksim Kuznetsov, who will monitor the trial's legality.

Prokopyeva told RFE/RL that the monitoring "will play the role of a 'social searchlight' that will permit the evaluation of the case that we were hoping to get," adding that because of coronavirus restrictions many international organizations have been unable to attend the trial.

On June 16, when the trial resumed, Prokopyeva reiterated her stance, rejecting charges that she had "justified terrorism" by publishing an online commentary that linked a suicide bombing to the country's political climate.

Prokopyeva, a freelance contributor to RFE/RL's Russian Service, was charged in connection with a commentary she wrote in November 2018, published by the Pskov affiliate of Ekho Moskvy radio. In the text, she discussed a bombing outside the Federal Security Service (FSB) offices in the northern city of Arkhangelsk.

The Russian media had reported that the suspected bomber, who died in the explosion, had posted statements on social media accusing the FSB of tampering with criminal cases.

In her commentary, Prokopyeva linked the teenager's statements to the political climate under President Vladimir Putin. She suggested that political activism in the country was severely restricted, leading people to despair.

Prokopyeva has described the case against her as an attempt to "assassinate freedom of speech" in Russia.

If found guilty, she faces up to seven years in prison.

"The charges against Svetlana are bogus and should be dropped, so that she and other Russian journalists can continue their efforts to address the important questions that Russians are contending with without fear of legal penalty," RFE/RL President Jamie Fly said in a statement.

Human Rights Watch called Prokopyeva's prosecution "a violation of freedom of expression, but not just hers."

"It sends yet another chilling message that in Russia, raising uncomfortable questions can have severe repercussions -- a lesson the authorities have been giving the media for years," the New York-based rights group said.

The case has drawn criticism from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, and media-rights groups like Reporters Without Borders, the Committee to Protect Journalists, and the European Federation of Journalists.