Russia gives ex-head of Ukrainian library four-year suspended sentence

June 5, 2017 10:30 pm

Former head of the Library of Ukrainian Literature Natalya Sharina, accused of embezzlement and inciting ethnic hatred, arrives for the announcement of the verdict at Moscow’s Meshchansky district court on June 5, 2017. (Photo by AFP)

A court in Moscow has convicted the former head of a Ukrainian library of inciting anti- propaganda, a charge that she rejected as politically-motivated.
A judge in a Moscow court found Natalya Sharina guilty of inciting ethnic hatred against Russia and handed her a four-year suspended prison sentence. Sharina was also convicted of misappropriating funds.
Sharina denied the charges and said she would appeal.
“Not one single book featuring on the current list of extremist literature today was present. People will probably recall this in a couple of decades … in the same way as we remember 1937 (the height of the Stalin-era show trials),” said Sharina, adding, “The state prosecutor admitted herself during the proceedings that this was a political case.”
Sharina said the court had no evidence to substantiate the allegations. The staff of the library also testified during the trial that they had seen police officers planting books in the facility. The investigators, however, dismissed the allegation.
Sharina was arrested in October 2015 when armed, masked policemen raided Moscow’s Library of Ukrainian Literature and confiscated books that the authorities had called illegal anti-Russian propaganda.

Natalya Sharina (2nd R), the head of a Ukrainian library, talks to the media in a courtroom in Moscow, Russia, on June 5, 2017. (Photo by AP)

The library was founded in 1918 at the height of cultural ties between Russia and . Many of the volumes in the facility, which used to house 52,000 books and periodicals, are reportedly being packed up to be merged into another library’s collection.
The arrest of Sharina came more than a year after political developments in Ukraine led to the rise of a pro-Western government, which took power from a Russia-backed one.
Tensions between Russia and Ukraine then boiled over after the Crimean Peninsula decided to rejoin Russia. Then tensions further intensified when two mainly Russian-speaking eastern regions in Ukraine declared themselves self-proclaimed republics and engaged in a military conflict with Kiev.
The government in Kiev has dismissed Sharina’s trial as politicized while her lawyer has vowed that the case would be sent to the European Court of Human Rights if Sharina’s appeal was not successful. 
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