Russian court decides to keep journalist Alsu Kurmasheva in detention until June | Freedom of the Press News

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A Russian-American journalist, Alsu Kurmasheva, has been accused of failing to register as a “foreign agent” and spreading “false information”. Her employer, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL), stated that a Russian court has extended her pre-trial detention until June 5. Kurmasheva, who holds both US and Russian passports, was arrested in Kazan last year for violating censorship laws enacted after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in 2022.

During a court appearance in Kazan, Kurmasheva complained about the poor conditions of her cell and smiled at reporters. She was initially detained at an airport in June and fined for failing to register her US passport with Russian authorities. Her employer, RFE/RL, is designated as a foreign agent by Russia due to receiving funding from the United States Congress.

Kurmasheva edited a book titled Saying No to War in 2022, which led to new charges against her for spreading false information about the Russian army. The charges she faces carry severe penalties, with failing to register as a foreign agent punishable by up to five years in prison and spreading false information carrying a maximum sentence of 15 years.

RFE/RL has called her imprisonment “outrageous” and demanded her immediate release, stating that the charges against her are baseless and politically motivated. Rights groups have criticized Russia for using oppressive legislation to target critics and independent journalists.

Kurmasheva is the second US journalist to be arrested in Russia since the start of the war in Ukraine. Evan Gershkovich, a Wall Street Journal reporter, has been detained for over a year on espionage charges. The US government has designated Gershkovich and another American, Paul Whelan, who was convicted of spying in 2020, as “wrongfully detained” and is working towards their release.

The US Department of State has condemned Kurmasheva’s arrest as harassment of US citizens by the Russian government, and her supporters are lobbying for her to be granted the same status as “wrongfully detained”.

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