July 16, 2020 / 12:40 PM / 19 days ago

Russian court rules to keep ex-journalist accused of treason behind bars

FILE PHOTO - Ivan Safronov, a former journalist who works as an aide to the head of Russia's space agency Roscosmos, detained on suspicion of treason stands inside a defendants' cage before a court hearing in Moscow, Russia July 7, 2020. REUTERS/Evgenia Novozhenina

MOSCOW (Reuters) - A Russian court on Thursday rejected an appeal by former journalist Ivan Safronov who was accused of treason earlier this month and said he had to remain in pre-trial detention.

Safronov, who left journalism and became an adviser at Russia’s space agency in May, was detained on July 7 and accused of passing military secrets to the Czech Republic in 2017, a charge he denies.

He faces up to two decades in jail if found guilty in a trial that is likely to be held behind closed doors because of what authorities say is the sensitive nature of the case.

Safronov’s supporters say they don’t believe the charges, which have sent a chill through Russia’s media community. They describe him as a Russian patriot and want the case details made public so that they can be properly scrutinised. Information so far is sparse.

Ahead of Thursday’s appeal hearing, the editors-in-chief of several prominent Russian media outlets said they could personally vouch for the former military journalist who worked for Russia’s Kommersant and Vedomosti newspapers.

Reporting by Anton Zverev; Writing by Tom Balmforth; Editing by Andrew Osborn

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