Security services have detained Marat Kasem, a news executive for Russia-sponsored Sputnik Lithuania media outlet, in Riga, he is suspected of espionage and violating economic sanctions, RIA Novosti reports.
Marat Kasem at SPIEF
RT notes that a court hearing took place on 5 January where he was sent to the Riga Central Prison.
Sources say that Kasem is a Latvian citizen but he lived and worked in Moscow for several years. The news editor returned home on 30 December for family reasons. He is facing up to 20 years in prison in Latvia.
Head of the Rossiya Segodnya media group Dmitry Kiselyov blasted Kasem’s arrest as “absurd and wrongful”.
“This is revenge of dictatorship regimes for his freedom, for his truth, and for his principled position,” spokeswoman for the Russian Foreign Ministry Maria Zakharova noted.
In 2019, Kasem was kicked out of Lithuania, banned from entering the country for 5 years, and then deported to Latvia. He was deemed “a national security threat”.