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Jailed WSJ Reporter Evan Gershkovich’s Pre-trial Detention Extended in Russia

A Russian court has extended the pre-trial detention of Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich until the end of November, on espionage charges, state news agency Tass reported.

Gershkovich has been in jail since the end of March when he was detained in the city of Yekaterinburg, almost 2,000 kilometres east of Moscow, while on a reporting trip.

The latest ruling means he faces spending at least eight months in prison.

The 31-year-old US citizen arrived at the Moscow court on Thursday in a white prison van and was led out handcuffed, wearing jeans, sneakers and a shirt.

He appeared in court to hear the result of the prosecution’s motion to extend his arrest from August 30.

Journalists outside the court were not allowed to witness the proceedings. Tass said the hearing was held behind closed doors because details of the criminal case are classified.

Two people wearing hooded jumpers leading another man by the arm from a white van towards a building

Russia’s Federal Security Service said Gershkovich, “acting on the instructions of the American side, collected information constituting a state secret about the activities of one of the enterprises of the Russian military-industrial complex.”

Gershkovich and his employer deny the allegations, and the US government declared him to be wrongfully detained.

His case has been wrapped in secrecy with Russian authorities not detailing what — if any — evidence they have gathered to support the espionage charges.

In a statement on Thursday, the Wall Street Journal said “our colleague and distinguished journalist Evan Gershkovich appeared for a pre-trial hearing where his improper detention was extended yet again.”

“We are deeply disappointed he continues to be arbitrarily and wrongfully detained for doing his job as a journalist.

“The baseless accusations against him are categorically false, and we continue to push for his immediate release. Journalism is not a crime.”

Earlier in August, US Ambassador to Russia Lynne Tracy made her third visit to Gershkovich and reported that he appeared to be in good health despite the challenging circumstances.

He is being held at Moscow’s Lefortovo prison, notorious for its harsh conditions.

People with cameras and bags standing outside the entrance of an old looking building

Gershkovich is the first American reporter to face espionage charges in Russia since September 1986, when Nicholas Daniloff, a Moscow correspondent for US News and World Report, was arrested by the KGB.

Analysts have pointed out that Moscow may be using jailed Americans as bargaining chips after US-Russian tensions soared over the Kremlin’s military operation in Ukraine.

At least two US citizens arrested in Russia in recent years — including WNBA star Brittney Griner — have been exchanged for Russians jailed in the US.

The Russian Foreign Ministry has previously said it would consider a swap for Gershkovich only in the event of a verdict in his trial. In Russia, espionage trials can last for more than a year.

Source : ABC News