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Russian court rejects appeal by detained US journalist

April 18, 2023

Evan Gershkovich will remain in custody at Moscow's Lefortovo prison as he awaits a trial, a Russian court ruled. Gershkovich was arrested for espionage, an allegation his lawyers and the US government strongly deny.

Evan Gershkovich in a blue checked shirt at the Moscow City Court
Gershkovich wore a blue checked shirt and jeans in the courtImage: Evgenia Novozhenina/REUTERS

A Moscow court has upheld the detention of  US-journalist Evan Gershkovich, who was arrested last month on spying charges. 

The 31-year-old appeared at a hearing on Tuesday to appeal against a decision to keep him behind bars as he awaits a trial.

He is expected to be kept in pretrial detention until at least May 29 at Moscow's Lefortovo prison.

The journalist stood in a glass and metal enclosure inside the courtroom, wearing a blue-checked shirt with his arms folded in front of him. He did not say anything.

The hearing was about the terms of Gershkovich's detention and not about the substance of the charges he faces as investigators are still working on the details of the case.

Russia's federal security service, the FSB, arrested Gershkovich last month and specifically accused him of collecting information about a Russian arms factory. Russian authorities did not cite evidence to support the charges.

If convicted, Gershkovich, a US national, could face up to 20 years in prison. Gershkovich's employer, the Wall Street Journal newspaper, and the US government, have strongly denied the accusations

Gershkovich's arrest is the first time Moscow has accused a US journalist of spying since the Cold War.

US ambassador visits Gershkovich 

Lynne Tracy, the US Ambassador to Moscow, said she made her first visit to Gershkovich on Monday, more than two weeks after Gershkovich was detained. Russia had denied the US embassy's requests for access to the journalist.

"He feels well and is holding up. We reiterate our call for Evan's immediate release," Tracy said in a statement. In Washington, the White House said it hopes to get regular consular access to Gershkovich. 

US seeks his release

The US State Department last week designated Gershkovich as wrongfully detained by Russia, a status that allows the US government to secure Gershkovich’s release. 

A top Russian diplomat said last week they were willing to discuss a potential prisoner swap with the US, but emphasized they could explore doing so only after the trial.

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov told state news agency TASS that talks about a possible exchange could take place through a dedicated channel that Russian and US security agencies established for such purposes.

That practice is in keeping with previous cases in which Russian authorities have insisted on completing the judicial process before considering exchanges. 

rm/nm (Reuters, AP) 

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