In a high-profile case that has drawn attention to the mounting pressure on Russian journalists, Wall Street Journal writer Evan Gershkovich’s appeal against his imprisonment on espionage charges was denied by the Moscow City Court on Tuesday.
Gershkovich, 31, could be seen grinning in the glass defendant’s cage as the media were permitted access to the courtroom before the hearing. He hadn’t been publicly seen since being detained on March 29 in the Urals Mountains city of Yekaterinburg, Russia.
Public access to the arguments was restricted, but journalists could hear the judge read the decision. “All understood. Thank you very much,” Gershkovich was heard telling the judge after the ruling, AFP reported. Handcuff marks were visible on his hands, AFP said.
“He has a fighting spirit. He’s working out and he knows that people are supporting him,” Maria Korchagina, one of his lawyers, told AFP after the hearing.
Tatyana Nozhkina, his additional attorney, claimed that Gershkovich was reading a lot in jail and was now reading the classic “War and Peace” by Leo Tolstoy.
According to AFP, the attorneys claimed they had offered to post a bail of 50 million rubles ($613,000) and asked for his release from custody while under house arrest.
Gershkovich is detained in Moscow’s Lefortovo prison on a charge of espionage, which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years. The Kremlin asserts that he was caught “red handed,” but it hasn’t offered any proof. The Wall Street Journal refutes the charges.
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Putin approved the detention of a US journalist as the power of hardliners increased. Given that Gershkovich has been “wrongfully detained,” according to the State Department, the US is now authorized to negotiate on his behalf.
Since the end of the Cold War, he has been the only American journalist jailed on espionage-related charges. Lynne Tracy, the US ambassador to Russia, attended the hearing.
Sergei Ryabkov, the deputy foreign minister of Russia, stated earlier this month that the Kremlin would be open to discussing an exchange involving Gershkovich, but only after the verdict of his trial.
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