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Transnistrian court sentences journalist to 15 years in prison for “spying”

Spying charges: Arrested on April 7 by Transnistria’s MGB (Ministry for State Security), Ernest Vardanean was accused of spying for Moldovan intelligence agencies while working as the Tiraspol correspondent of the Moldovan news agency Novyi Region, for which he had written articles that were very critical of the Transnistrian leader, Igor Smirnov .

A 15-year jail sentence has been slapped by a court in Tiraspol, the capital of the breakaway region of Transnistria, on journalist Ernest Vardanean on charges of high treason and spying for Moldova, Paris-based press freedom group Reporters sans Frontières (RSF) has reported.

The court specified that Vardanean should be subjected to a “severe regime” while serving his sentence, issued under article 272 of Transnistria’s constitution. The verdict was based on a confession which Reporters Without Borders believes was obtained under torture with the aim of silencing an outspoken reporter.

A narrow strip of territory located on Moldova’s northeastern border with Ukraine, Transnistria proclaimed its independence with Russian backing in 1991.

Arrested on April 7 by Transnistria’s MGB (Ministry for State Security), Vardanean was accused of spying for Moldovan intelligence agencies while working as the Tiraspol correspondent of the Moldovan news agency Novyi Region, for which he had written articles that were very critical of the Transnistrian leader, Igor Smirnov .

The conditions in which he was held for seven months, until his trial opened on November 3, were condemned by the United States and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). His wife voiced concern in May about his physical and mental state after he had apparently undergone many exhausting interrogation sessions lasting hours.

On May 11, the Transnistrian authorities broadcast a video on the national TV station in which Vardanean “confessed” to having been an agent of the Moldovan intelligence services since 2001. His family said the confession was extracted under torture.

The one-sided conduct of the trial showed that the court was determined to convict and jail Vardanean. His lawyer was forbidden to travel to Tiraspol for “security reasons.” The public, the OSCE’s representatives and Vardanean’s family were all denied access to the courtroom and the court-appointed lawyer systematically refused to talk to his wife after the hearings.

The family’s lawyer said she would appeal against his conviction and would file a complaint before the European Court of Human Rights.

RSF urged the Moldovan and Russian governments, the European Court of Human Rights and the OSCE to press Transnistria to quash Vardanean’s conviction.

Date posted: December 19, 2010 Last modified: May 23, 2018 Total views: 117