Russia puts veteran journalist in pre-trial detention for 'justifying terrorism'

(Reuters) - Veteran Russian journalist Nadezhda Kevorkova was placed in pre-trial detention for two months by a Moscow court on Tuesday on suspicion of "justifying terrorism", her son said.

Kevorkova, 65, is a war correspondent who has reported extensively in the Middle East and has written numerous books about Palestine. She was detained on Monday following a search of her home.

Her son, Vasily Polonsky, also a journalist, said in a Telegram post that her detention would last until July 6.

Kevorkova's lawyer, Kaloy Akhilgov, said she had been arrested due to a Telegram post she wrote about the Taliban, which Russia recognises as a terrorist organisation.

Under Russian law, the charge carries between five and seven years in prison.

Kevorkova denies any guilt, Akhilgov said.

Russian independent news outlet Mediazona said Kevorkova's arrest also stemmed from a Telegram post about a Russian journalist killed in the Central African Republic in 2018 while filming a documentary about the Wagner mercenary group, whose chief Yevgeny Prigozhin led an attempted mutiny last June. Prigozhin died two months later in a plane crash.

The United Nations' human rights chief voiced concern on Tuesday about the rising number of detentions of journalists in Russia in what he said was an apparent attempt to control information surrounding the Ukraine war.

Russian authorities have placed several reporters in detention in recent weeks and the U.N. rights office said the total had now risen to an all-time high of at least 30.

"The continuous attacks on free speech and the criminalisation of independent journalism in Russia are very troubling," the U.N. Commissioner for Human Rights, Volker Turk, said in a statement.

Charges lodged against reporters include extremism, spying, treason and inciting mass disturbances, the U.N. rights office said.

(Reporting by Lucy Papachristou in London and Emma Farge in Geneva; Writing by Lucy Papachristou; Editing by Gareth Jones)