In a closed hearing on Thursday, the Supreme Court of PMR convicted Vardanian of high treason and ordered him transferred to a strict-regime penal colony, regional and international press reported. It was unclear whether Vardanian's PMR-appointed lawyer would appeal the verdict.
Prior to his arrest in April, Vardanian, 30, worked as a staff reporter and political analyst for the Chisinau-based newspaper Puls, freelanced for the Russian Internet news agency Novy Region, and occasionally contributed to Europa Libera. Puls Editor-in-Chief Dmitry Kavruk told Deutsche Welle in April that the PMR's Ministry of State Security (MGB) had been pressuring Vardanian to stop working for Chisinau media outlets.
"Moldovan authorities must step up their efforts for the
release of Ernest Vardanian," CPJ Europe and Central Asia Program Coordinator
Irina Vardanian told Europa Libera she was not informed of any
of the trial dates, and she was not allowed in the court. Lawyer Postica told
A group of armed MGB agents arrested Vardanian at his home in Tiraspol and placed him in an agency detention facility, according to press reports and CPJ interviews. MGB agents searched the journalist's home and confiscated computers, recording equipment and reporter's notebooks, as well as the family's bank and credit cards. The MGB denied Vardanian access to a lawyer after his arrest, according to press reports.
CPJ has advocated on Vardanian's behalf, and called on Moldovan authorities to secure his release. On December 9, Sergiu Luca, first secretary at the Embassy of Moldova in the United States, responded to CPJ's request for information on the status of Moldova's efforts to gain Vardanian's release, saying: "Official authorities have no access in the region. Also, the Moldovan government does not recognize any 'decision' taken by the unconstitutional so-called courts in the region A series of diplomatic efforts and steps have been undertaken to release our citizen."