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Russian court reaffirms decision to keep jailed US journalist in pre-trial detention

by Nate Ostiller and The Kyiv Independent news desk December 12, 2023 10:54 AM 2 min read
Alsu Kurmasheva, a dual-Russian/American citizen and journalist for RFE/RL's Tatar-Bashkir service, has been detained in Russia since Oct. 19, 2023. (Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty)
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The Supreme Court of the Russian region of Tatarstan ruled on Dec. 12 to confirm the decision of a lower court to keep Alsu Kurmasheva, a Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) journalist with dual U.S. and Russian citizenship in pre-trial detention, the news organization announced on Dec. 12.

The Supreme Court's decision upheld a ruling by a court in the city of Kazan on Dec. 1 to extend Kurmasheva's pretrial detention by two months, although it decided for unknown reasons to shorten the extension by one day.

According to RFE/RL, Kurmasheva lived in Prague with her family and traveled to Russia in May for a family emergency. When she tried to leave Russia the following month, authorities confiscated both her Russian and American passports, supposedly on the premise that she had not registered her U.S. passport.

Kurmasheva has been unable to leave Russia since then. RFE/RL confirmed that she had been charged with the foreign agent violation on Oct. 19 while waiting for her passports to be returned.

She was sentenced to pre-trial detention on Oct. 23, which was supposed to end on Dec. 5.

Kurmasheva's arrest and extended pre-trial detention has been widely condemned by RFE/RL, the EU, Western nations, and a wide variety of NGOs, including the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), Amnesty International, and others.

CPJ's Europe and Central Asia program coordinator, Gulnoza Said, denounced her arrest, saying on Oct. 23 that it was the "most egregious instance to date of the abusive use of Russia’s foreign agents’ legislation against independent press.”

Kurmasheva is the second journalist with American citizenship to be detained in Russia since the beginning of the full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

Evan Gershkovich, a Wall Street Journal reporter from the U.S., was arrested in Russia in March 2023 on espionage charges. He has been held in pre-trial detention since, which was extended on Nov. 28 for an additional two months.

Both the U.S. government and the WSJ strongly deny the charges against him.

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