Evan Gershkovich: US journalist arrested in Russia appears in court

A Russian court has rejected the appeal of US journalist Evan Gershkovich against his pre-trial detention.

He appeared in court in Moscow on Tuesday – the first time he had been seen in public for weeks.

He was arrested in the city of Yekaterinburg while working for the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) newspaper and charged with spying.

Mr Gershkovich stood with folded arms in a bullet-proof glass enclosure, wearing jeans and a blue checked shirt.

He gave a quick smile while standing calmly, but did not say anything to the reporters present.

The court rejected his legal team’s offer to free him on bail of 50 million roubles ($614,000) or put him under house arrest.

Mr Gershkovich will stay at a former KGB prison until 29 May at least.

Along with his lawyer, US ambassador to Moscow Lynne Tracy was also present in the courtroom.

This is the same court where Kremlin critic Vladimir Kara-Murza was just convicted of treason and sentenced to prison on Monday.

Media were allowed in the courtroom at the start of the hearing before being ushered out and will be permitted to return at the end of the hearing.

Speaking outside the court after the hearing, Ms Tracy said she had been given access to Mr Gershkovich for the first time on Monday and that he was in “good health and remains strong despite the circumstances”.

“The charges against Evan are baseless and we call on the Russian Federation to immediately release him,” she said.

“He has a fighting spirit,” one of his lawyers, Maria Korchagina, said. “He’s working out and he knows that people are supporting him.”

Another one of his lawyers, Tatiana Nozhkina, said,”He’s in a combative mood, denies he is guilty, and is ready to prove it.”

When the judge asked Mr Gershkovich if he needed a translation, he replied no – he understood everything.

He is reading Russian literature while in detention.

More than 40 countries, led by the US, released a joint statement at the United Nations on Monday calling for Mr Gershkovich’s release and condemning Moscow for intimidating the media.

Mr Gershkovich, 31, was arrested on 29 March and could face up to 20 years in prison if found guilty of espionage.

Russia claims he was trying to obtain classified defence information for the US government. Mr Gershkovich denies any wrongdoing.

His arrest is the first time Moscow has accused a US journalist of espionage since the Soviet era.

Reporters Without Borders said Mr Gershkovich was covering the Russian mercenary group Wagner in Yekaterinburg, about 1,600km (1,000 miles) east of Moscow.

US officials said his driver had dropped him off at a restaurant and two hours later, his phone had been turned off.

Lawyers for the WSJ have been able to see him and the company said it was doing “everything in our power to support Evan and his family”.

US leaders – President Joe Biden and both Republican and Democratic senators – have condemned his detention.

His case is now being handled by the US special envoy for hostage affairs.

At least 65 Americans were being unfairly detained abroad in 2022, according to a report by the James Foley Legacy Foundation.

The daughter of the human rights activist Andrei Sakharov, who became the first Soviet citizen to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, has described the treatment dealt out to journalists as “primitive, unjustifiable, and appalling”.

Tatiana Yankelevich, who is a US-based scholar, has said in an article about her friend Mr Kara-Murza that he is unlikely to survive his 25-year jail term and that “there are many other lesser known but ever-so-courageous people resisting official lies and propaganda”.

SOurce: BBC


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