Entertainment

Russian Director and Playwright Sentenced to Six Years for Alleged 'Terrorism Justification

Published On Tue, 09 Jul 2024
Zara Malhotra
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In Moscow, a Russian court handed down a six-year prison sentence to both a playwright and a theatre director on July 8, accusing them of "justifying terrorism" in a case that has drawn widespread criticism from human rights advocates highlighting Russia's crackdown on artistic expression.
Zhenya Berkovich, aged 39, and Svetlana Petriychuk, aged 44, were arrested in May 2023 following the production of their play titled "Finist, the Brave Falcon," which centered on Russian women marrying Islamic State fighters. The trial, spanning seven weeks, was closely watched as a significant instance of state prosecution against cultural figures since Russia's military intervention in Ukraine in 2022. Throughout the proceedings, both Berkovich and Petriychuk maintained their innocence.
The trial attracted condemnation from free speech proponents and the artistic community within Russia, who viewed the case as politically motivated. Amid alleged threats to participants, the judge, Yuri Massin, granted a prosecutor's request to conduct parts of the trial behind closed doors.
Following the verdict, defense lawyer Kseniya Karpinskaya expressed intentions to appeal the decision, though she expressed little optimism about its outcome. She reaffirmed the innocence of her clients, emphasizing that nothing incriminating had emerged during the closed sessions. Berkovich and Petriychuk had argued during the trial's outset in late May that their play was intended to denounce terrorism rather than endorse it. Berkovich reiterated her stance in court, condemning terrorists and expressing strong disapproval towards their actions.
Disclaimer: This image is taken from Reuters.
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