Family of US Journalist Appeals for Release from Russian Prison

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( – In mid-October, Tatar-Inform, a Russian state-run media outlet, reported that officials had detained a Russian-American journalist working for Radio Free Liberty/Radio Free Europe for allegedly failing to register as a “foreign agent.” Her husband, Pavel Butorin, head of the 24/7 Russian-language network Current Time TV, recently called for Alsu Kurmasheva’s release.

On November 11, The Associated Press published a report detailing the current status of Kurmasheva’s detention and her husband’s appeal to Russian officials to set her free. The media outlet reported that Butorin appeared visibly shaken during an earlier interview.

Butorin told the AP that his wife “should be celebrating” the couple’s 21st wedding anniversary at home with him and the couple’s children, “not in a Russian prison.” He said the family wanted her back, adding that Russian authorities “must” release her “as soon as possible.”

Kurmasheva’s detention marks the second time Russian authorities have held an American journalist. They arrested Evan Gershkovich in March on charges related to alleged acts of espionage. His arrest marks the first time Russia took a reporter from the United States into custody since the Cold War. He is still in prison there.

Russian authorities accused Kurmasheva of reporting on Russian military activities/assets “to transmit information to foreign sources,” according to a recent report published by Tatar-Inform. In early June, authorities at Russia’s Kazan International Airport confiscated her Russian and American passports and fined her for reportedly failing to register that US document.

Galina Arapova, the senior lawyer for the Russian-based Media Defense Centre, told news outlets that authorities clearly “did not have anything on Kurmasheva” at the time. She noted that it “took them three months to decide” how to “package” a criminal case against her.

Russian officials are currently holding Kurmasheva in a federal detention center awaiting trial. On October 20, the independent Russian media site Mediazona published photographs of her inside a defendant’s cage with her masked face peeking out of a hood pulled over her head from a dark coat.

Kurmasheva faces up to five years in prison if a Russian court finds her guilty.

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