Russian court extends detention of U.S. journalist until December

A Russian court on Monday extended the pre-trial detention of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty journalist Alsu Kurmasheva for another six weeks under the provisions of the country's controversial 'foreign agent' laws. Photo courtesy Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty

Oct. 23 (UPI) -- An American journalist working for Radio Liberty on Monday was placed into pre-trial detention until December following her arrest by Russian authorities last week, the broadcaster reported.

Alsu Kurmasheva, an editor for Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty who covers Russia's Volga-Ural region from the network's Prague headquarters, was ordered to be imprisoned until a Dec. 5 court date by the Sovetsky District Court of Kazan, Russia, according to RFE/RL.

Kurmasheva, a U.S.-Russian dual citizen, was arrested Wednesday and charged with violating Russia's controversial "foreign agent" laws, under which many foreign journalists and employees of non-governmental organizations are required to register with the government.

Judge Mars Ganeev ordered the journalist's temporary detention be extended by six weeks at Monday's secret hearing in which prosecutors said she had not registered as required.

"We are deeply disappointed by the outcome of today's hearing," said RFE/RL acting President Jeffrey Gedmin. "We call for Alsu's immediate release so she can be reunited with her family."

Kurmasheva was first detained in June when traveling to Russia for family reasons and has remained there after her passports were confiscated by authorities. She was re-arrested last week.

The foreign agent laws have been roundly criticized by human rights activists as a potent tool to intimidate those opposed to President Vladimir Putin's policies, applying to both non-citizens and any Russians who are deemed by authorities to be "influenced" by unfriendly foreign governments.

Among its sweeping provisions, the law covers anyone who gathers information about Russia's military activities or military capabilities, or creates or publicly disseminates information or funds such activities, according to Human Rights Watch.

Kurmasheva was charged under that section of the law, prosecutors said. The charges represent the first known criminal case under the military activities provision to be brought against a journalist, RFE/RL said.

The crime carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison.

Kurmasheva is the second U.S. journalist to be imprisoned by Russia since March, when Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich was jailed in Moscow on espionage charges.

The newspaper called Gershkovich a "trusted and dedicated reporter" and said it was "deeply concerned" for his safety while "vehemently" denying the charges and calling for his immediate release.