EU country releases jailed Russian editor – media

Latvia has released Sputnik Lithuania editor Marat Kasem under house arrest, after keeping him in jail for almost four months

EU country releases jailed Russian editor – media

EU country releases jailed Russian editor – media

Marat Kasem is reportedly out of Latvian jail but remains under house arrest

Latvian authorities have released journalist Marat Kasem into house arrest on Thursday, according to his employer, Sputnik Lithuania. Kasem had been in a Riga jail since January, facing charges of espionage and violating EU sanctions on Russian media.

Under the terms of his release, Kasem must not leave his home address in Salaspils from 11 pm to 7 am every day, and needs to check in at the local police station twice a week, Sputnik reported.

Though Kasem is a Latvian citizen, Riga had declared him persona non grata in 2019 and deported him to Russia, citing his involvement with Sputnik. He lived in Moscow and became editor-in-chief of Sputnik Lithuania. Last December, he returned to Riga to visit his ailing grandmother, but was arrested on January 5, before he could do so. The elderly woman passed away in late January.

The Latvian government charged Kasem with espionage and violating the EU sanctions against Russia, according to his lawyer, Stanislovas Tomas. If convicted, he faces up to 25 years in prison.

Tomas tried to appeal the jailing of Kasem, but the Riga court rejected his motion on March 6, leaving the journalist behind bars. According to Sputnik, Kasem was placed in a solitary cell inside the wing used to house convicts, not suspects in pre-trial detention. As a result of “unsanitary conditions” in the prison, Kasem’s health deteriorated due to a chronic condition, which was not named.

One of the editor’s “crimes” was accepting a salary from Sputnik, which is part of the media group Rossiya Segodnya, funded by the Russian government. The agency is banned from broadcasting in the EU as part of the bloc’s sanctions against Moscow, enacted last March over the Ukraine conflict. The Latvian authorities did not explain why Kasem was charged with espionage.

Moscow has condemned Kasem’s detention as unjust and an attack on the freedom of the press. The Russian human rights commissioner Tatiana Moskalkova has called on the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to personally address the issue.