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Russian court upholds arrest of reporter Maria Ponomarenko despite her suicide attempt and deteriorating mental health

A court in Russia’s Barnaul has upheld the arrest of RusNews reporter Maria Ponomarenko despite her recent suicide attempt caused by the journalist’s deteriorating mental state. The reporter previously slit her wrists, her colleagues wrote.

Ponomarenko has been diagnosed with histrionic personality disorder. She did not receive the necessary mental help at the detention centre, RusNews points out. The reporter also suffers from claustrophobia, which is why the two months spent in a room with sealed off windows has negatively affected her mental health.

“I think the conditions of my detention behind sealed off windows are torturous. I do not pose any danger to society.

The only person I can hurt in the state of hysteria and depression is myself,” Ponomarenko said in court (she attended the hearing via a video call).

Maria Ponomarenko. Photo: Facebook

Maria Ponomarenko. Photo: Facebook

On 25 August, the court prolonged the reporter’s arrest until 29 September. She spent a week from 6 to 13 September in solitary confinement for breaking a cell window. Currently, the detention centre’s administration is discussing sending Ponomarenko to solitary confinement for another violation.

Attorney Dmitry Shitov asked the court to change Ponomarenko’s measure of restraint to house arrest, as the investigation of the criminal case has moved to a different stage. The accused admits that a crime took place, but she does not agree with the qualification of the crime.

The defence maintains that being held under arrest without proper medical care when the investigation is essentially over is too oppressive. The attorney noted that the reporter’s diagnosis is officially confirmed. Meanwhile, the prosecution claims the defence did not provide the documents to confirm any serious conditions that prevent Ponomarenko from serving her term at the detention centre.

A friend of the reporter has stated in court that he is ready to provide her with a flat where she can be placed under house arrest.

“My youngest daughter quit music school; she was already in the sixth grade. My eldest daughter is also in a bad mental and emotional state, she is constantly crying. I get her letters. She doesn’t have a very good relationship with her father. I worry so much about my eldest daughter, about her future. […] When I get these letters, it’s hard for me to keep myself together, it affects my mental state.

I think isolating me from my children and from society is unfounded.

[…] All I ever did was express my point of view, that is, use my constitutional right,” Ponomarenko said during the court hearing.

In late April, a court in St. Petersburg sent Ponomarenko to a pre-trial detention facility under Russia’s “fake news” law for the March 17 publication on the RusNews Telegram channel about civilians hiding in the Mariupol theatre that was bombed by Russian forces. The outlet’s Telegram channel has about 1,600 subscribers. Maria is the mother of two young daughters. If convicted, she can face up to 10 years behind bars.

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