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Russia extends detention of US-Russian journalist Kurmasheva

April 1, 2024

Alsu Kurmasheva worked as a journalist for the US-funded outlet Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Her employer said the charges against her were politically motivated.

Alsu Kurmasheva in court
Prague-based journalist Alsu Kurmasheva was arrested after she returned to Russia for a family emergencyImage: Alexander Nemenov/AFP/Getty Images

A Russian court extended the pre-trial detention of US-Russian journalist Alsu Kurmasheva for a second time on Monday.

Her lawyers had previously asked for her to be put under house arrest until she faces trial, but she will now be held until at least June 5.

Kurmasheva smiled in court in Kazan on Monday but complained about the poor state of the cell where she was being kept, according to an AFP reporter at the hearing.

What was Alsu Kurmasheva charged with?

Kurmasheva lived in Prague and worked as a journalist for the US-funded Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.

In 2022, Kurmasheva also edited a book called "Saying No to War," which included interviews and stories from Russians who opposed Moscow's invasion of Ukraine.

She was arrested last year when she returned to Russia to visit her ailing mother. Authorities accused her of failing to register as a "foreign agent."

The charge carries a maximum sentence of five years in jail, and Kremlin critics say authorities use this regulation to crack down on dissent.

Kurmasheva was later also charged with spreading "false information," for which she could face up to 15 years in jail.

Alsu Kurmasheva in court
Alsu Kurmasheva reportedly complained about the conditions of her cell in a court hearing on MondayImage: Alexander Nemenov/AFP/Getty Images

Her employer called her imprisonment "outrageous" and politically motivated, accusing Russian authorities of detaining her "simply because she holds an American passport."

"The charges against Alsu are baseless. It's not a legal process. It's a political ploy, and Alsu and her family are unjustifiably paying a terrible price," RFE/RL head Stephen Capus said on Monday.

Kurmasheva is the second US journalist to be arrested in Russia since the 2022 invasion of Ukraine, after The Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich.

zc/sms (Reuters, AFP)