Ernest Vardanean, a 33-year-old stringer for the Transdniester news agency Novy Region 2, is accused of spying for Moldova and could be sentenced to between 12 and 20 years in prison if found guilty.
The Moldovan government, the U.S. Embassy in Chisinau, the European Union, and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe have urged authorities in Tiraspol to release Vardanean from detention and to ensure he receives a fair trial. Numerous human rights and journalists' associations, including Reporters Without Borders, have also condemned his arrest.
“All the accusations are fabricated,” one of the Armenian bloggers demonstrating outside the Russian mission in Yerevan told RFE/RL’s Armenian service. “There is no substance in this criminal case.”
“I consider his arrest a blatant violation of freedom of speech,” said Mikael Danielian, the chairman of the Armenian Helsinki Association also attending the protest.
The protesters then handed embassy officials a letter to Medvedev that urges him to use Moscow’s strong influence on the Transdniester authorities and ensure that they respect the due process in the case. They said the authorities should specifically allow Vardanean to undergo a medical examination and hire a private lawyer and produce evidence of their espionage allegations.
The journalist’s wife Irina similarly appealed to the Russian president earlier this month. Speaking to RFE/RL’s Moldovan service on May 3, she said intervention by Russian officials is the best hope for her husband's case.
Irina Vardanean spoke just days after being allowed the see her husband in a Tiraspol jail for the second time since he was arrested on April 7. She said he looked tired and depressed after hours of interrogation.
The Transdniester region -- which is mainly populated by ethnic Russians and Ukrainians -- broke away from Moldova in 1990 and has been de facto independent since the end of a short war against Moldovan forces in 1992, although it is not recognized by any countries.