World

US-Russian journalist to be held in jail for another six weeks, court rules

Radio Free Europe-Radio Liberty editor Alsu Kurmasheva stands in a glass cage in a courtroom in Kazan, Russia (Vladislav Mikhnevskii/AP)
Radio Free Europe-Radio Liberty editor Alsu Kurmasheva stands in a glass cage in a courtroom in Kazan, Russia (Vladislav Mikhnevskii/AP) Radio Free Europe-Radio Liberty editor Alsu Kurmasheva stands in a glass cage in a courtroom in Kazan, Russia (Vladislav Mikhnevskii/AP)

A court has ordered a Russian-American journalist who was detained last week on charges of failing to register as a foreign agent to remain in custody until early December, her employer said.

Alsu Kurmasheva, an editor for the US government-funded Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty’s Tatar-Bashkir service, appeared in a closed session in a court in the city of Kazan, the capital of the Tatarstan republic.

The broadcaster said the court ordered her to be held until December 5, rejecting her lawyer’s request for preventative measures other than incarceration.

She is the second US journalist detained in Russia this year after Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich was arrested on espionage charges in March. Mr Gershkovich remains in custody.

Russia Journalist Detained
Russia Journalist Detained Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty journalist Alsu Kurmasheva is in custody in Russia (Claire Bigg/Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty via AP)

The state-run news website Tatar-Inform said Ms Kurmasheva faces charges of failing to register as a “foreign agent” and was collecting information on Russian military activities. Conviction would carry a sentence of up to five years in prison.

Ms Kurmasheva, who lives in Prague, was stopped on June 2 at Kazan International Airport after travelling to Russia due to a family emergency on May 20, according to RFE/RL.

Airport officials confiscated her US and Russian passports and she was fined for failing to register her US passport. She was waiting for her passports to be returned when the new charge was filed on Wednesday, RFE/RL said.

RFE/RL was told by Russian authorities in 2017 to register as a foreign agent but it has challenged Moscow’s use of foreign agent laws in the European Court of Human Rights. The organisation has been fined millions of dollars by Russia.

The Committee to Protect Journalists called the charges against Ms Kurmasheva “spurious”, saying her detention “is yet more proof that Russia is determined to stifle independent reporting”.

She reported on ethnic minority communities in the Tatarstan and Bashkortostan republics in Russia, including projects to preserve the Tatar language and culture, her employer said.

Mr Gershkovich and The Wall Street Journal deny the allegations against him, and the US government has declared him to be wrongfully detained.

Russian authorities have not detailed any evidence to support the charges. Court proceedings against him are closed because prosecutors say details of the case are classified.