MOSCOW: A Russian court extended the detention of US-Russian journalist Alsu Kurmasheva today – who her employer says faces 15 years in prison for violating censorship laws – until 5 April.
Kurmasheva, a Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) journalist, was arrested last year for failing to register as a “foreign agent”.
A court in the central city of Kazan said it had ruled today to keep her in pre-trial detention until April 5.
At the closed-door hearing, Kurmasheva’s lawyers had asked that she be released under house arrest, pending trial.
After her arrest in October, Kurmasheva was charged with spreading “false information” about Russia’s military offensive on Ukraine, according to RFE/RL.
The “foreign agent” charge carries up to five years in prison, while those convicted of spreading “false information” face up to 15 years behind bars.
Her lawyers and family have denied the charges and called for her immediate release.
Russia has used sweeping censorship laws to ban criticism of its armed forces and independent reporting on its two-year military campaign.
Kurmasheva, who lives in Prague with her husband and two children, had her US and Russian passports confiscated last June after travelling to Russia for a family emergency.
She was arrested in October while awaiting the return of her passports.
Moscow has jailed dozens of its most high-profile critics and independent journalists for years under anti-dissent laws passed days after it ordered troops into Ukraine in February 2022.
Kurmasheva is the second US journalist to be arrested in Russia in the past 12 months.
Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich is also being held in pre-trial detention in Moscow on espionage charges that carry a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.
He has also denied the charges.
Russia has designated RFE/RL a “foreign agent” – a label with Soviet-era spy connotations designed to cut off support.
In 2022, Kurmasheva edited a book titled, “Saying No to War” – a collection of interviews and stories from Russians who oppose Moscow’s campaign against Ukraine.
The US state department said last year that Kurmasheva’s arrest “appears to be another case of the Russian government harassing US citizens.”