Russian court cancels deportation of Afghan journalist Kobra Hassani

A Russian court has overturned the deportation order for Afghan journalist and activist Kobra Hassani, 27, who expressed fear for her life under Taliban rule in Afghanistan, Russian media reported on Thursday.

Hassani, along with 12 other Afghans, was detained near a St. Petersburg port in May 2022, suspected of trying to illegally reach Europe.

On Tuesday, a St. Petersburg court sentenced Hassani and the 11 men to two years in prison for illegally crossing the Russian border. However, their pre-trial custody time was credited, and the court ruled their sentence as fully served.

Concerns were raised that Hassani, known for covering women’s rights on a TV network from Afghanistan, might face imprisonment and torture if deported to Afghanistan. Last month, Russian authorities denied her asylum application.

On Wednesday, St. Petersburg’s Krasnoselsky District Court dismissed a motion to extend Hassani’s detention in an immigration facility and approved a defense motion to release her from custody without deportation, citing her travel restrictions, Russian media reported.

“The forced deportation of Hassani from Russia is impossible, and her prolonged custody… excessively restricts her rights and freedoms,” said the St. Petersburg court system’s Telegram channel.

According to the report, Hassani initially fled the Taliban via Tajikistan, settling in Kyiv after the group seized power in Afghanistan in 2021. Following Russia’s 2022 invasion of Ukraine, she tried to reach Poland but was taken to Russian-controlled Ukraine and then Moscow.