Aleksandr Sokolov

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A Moscow court on August 10, 2017, sentenced Aleksandr Sokolov to 3.5 years in a prison colony on extremism charges for violating Russia’s law against organizing an extremist organization, according to the journalist’s employer, the Russian media holding RBC.

Russian authorities arrested Sokolov on July 29, 2015, two weeks after he published an investigative report about the alleged embezzlement of government funds during the construction of Vostochny Cosmodrome, a space launch facility in Russia’s far east, according to RBC.

Sokolov had covered politics and corruption for RBC since 2013, and published an investigative piece in September 2014 about Russians enlisting to fight alongside Russia-backed separatists in Ukraine’s Donbass.

Russian prosecutors said an organization in which Sokolov and his three co-defendants participated, For Responsible Government, was a front for another organization, the Army of People’s Will, which the Russian authorities banned as extremist in 2010, according to news reports.

Sokolov and the co-defendants denied these charges and appealed the case, according to the Russian news site Vedomosti. RBC also refuted the prosecutors’ claims, and said charges were motivated by Sokolov’s work as a journalist.

In December 2015, the outlet asked President Vladimir Putin during a press conference to help its jailed correspondent. Putin said he had never heard about Sokolov but promised to help. The Kremlin has not publicly taken action in the matter.

According to Pavel Nikulin, co-chair of the Russian Journalists Professional Union, Sokolov uploaded several texts to the For Responsible Government organization’s website before he joined RBC, because he shared their views of government accountability. Nikulin said Sokolov had not been in touch with the other defendants after joining RBC as its correspondent in the autumn 2013.

CPJ did not include Sokolov in its 2015 or 2016 prison census because it was unaware of a link between Sokolov’s journalism and his arrest.