Russian court extends detention of US-Russian journalist Alsu Kurmasheva

Kazan, Russia - A Russian court on Friday extended the pre-trial detention of US-Russian journalist Alsu Kurmasheva – arrested for failing to register as a "foreign agent" – until February 5, her employer said.

Russian-American journalist for Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty Alsu Kurmasheva is in custody in Kazan after she was accused of violating Russia's law on foreign agents.
Russian-American journalist for Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty Alsu Kurmasheva is in custody in Kazan after she was accused of violating Russia's law on foreign agents.  © REUTERS

Kurmasheva, who holds both Russian and American citizenship, was working for the US-funded Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) media outlet when she was detained by law enforcement officers in the Russian city of Kazan in October.

"A court in Kazan extended the detention of Radio Liberty journalist Alsu Kurmasheva until February 5, 2024," RFE/RL reported on Friday.

She is the second US journalist to be arrested in Russia this year as Moscow wages war in Ukraine.

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Earlier this week, a court in Moscow extended the pre-trial detention of Wall Street Journal correspondent Evan Gershkovich, arrested on treason charges.

Kurmasheva, who lives in Prague with her husband and two children, was charged with failing to register as a "foreign agent."

Both she and Gershkovich deny the charges against them.

Kurmasheva faces Russian prison sentence if found guilty

Alsu Kurmasheva listens to a lawyer while standing inside an enclosure for defendants as she attends a court hearing in Kazan, Russia, on December 1, 2023.
Alsu Kurmasheva listens to a lawyer while standing inside an enclosure for defendants as she attends a court hearing in Kazan, Russia, on December 1, 2023.  © REUTERS

Kurmasheva faces up to five years in prison if found guilty, and her lawyers and employer have called for her immediate release.

Russia has used controversial "foreign agents" legislation as part of a sweeping crackdown on independent media operating inside the country.

The laws require organizations and individuals designated as "foreign agents" – a term which has Soviet-era spying connotations – to mark all their publications and submit reports on their activities to the Russian authorities.

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It also requires any Russian citizens to self-register if they engage in activity that poses a threat to Russia's "national security."

Kurmasheva was arrested in October after initially having her passports confiscated in June when she traveled to Russia for a family emergency.

The Committee to Protect Journalists called on Wednesday for the US State Department to designate Kurmasheva as "wrongfully detained," a move which would trigger more intensive diplomatic efforts in Washington to secure her release.

Critics have accused Russia of indiscriminately arresting US passport holders to swap them for Russians jailed in the United States.

Cover photo: REUTERS

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