Russia sentences director, playwright to 6 years for 'justifying terrorism'

July 9, 2024 2:24 pm

[Source: Reuters]

A Russian court sentenced a playwright and a theatre director each to six years in prison on Monday for “justifying terrorism”, concluding a trial that rights campaigners had said demonstrated Russia’s intolerance of artistic freedom.

Director Zhenya Berkovich, 39, and playwright Svetlana Petriychuk, 44, were arrested in May last year over their production of a play called “Finist, the Brave Falcon”, about Russian women who marry Islamic State fighters.

The case was the most prominent prosecution of Russian cultural figures over the content of their artwork since Moscow sent troops into Ukraine in 2022. Both denied guilt.

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The seven-week trial was condemned by free speech campaigners and Russia’s artistic community as politically motivated.

Partway through the trial, judge Yuri Massin approved a request from prosecutors to close the proceedings to the public over alleged threats to some participants.

“I staged the performance to prevent terrorism,” Berkovich, told the court. Towards terrorists, she said, “I have nothing but condemnation and disgust”.