US reporter Gershkovich loses new appeal against pre-trial detention in Russia
PHOTO CAPTION: Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich, who was arrested in March while on a reporting trip and accused of espionage, stands behind a glass wall of an enclosure for defendants before a court hearing to consider an appeal against his detention, in Moscow, Russia June 22, 2023. REUTERS/Evgenia Novozhenina
By Tatiana Gomozova
MOSCOW (Reuters) -U.S. reporter Evan Gershkovich lost his latest appeal in a Moscow court on Thursday against his pre-trial detention on charges of espionage.
The Wall Street Journal reporter denies the spying charge, which could lead to a prison sentence of up to 20 years if he is convicted.
U.S. Ambassador Lynne Tracy, who was not allowed inside the hearing, told reporters outside that she was "extremely disappointed" by the decision.
She praised Gershkovich, 31, for his "remarkable strength and resiliency" and reiterated the U.S. stance that the charges against him were baseless.
"He is an innocent journalist who was carrying out journalistic activities and has been wrongfully detained. Such hostage diplomacy is unacceptable," Tracy said.
The Kremlin has said Gershkovich was caught "red-handed" on a trip to the Urals city of Yekaterinburg, where the FSB security service said he was trying to obtain military secrets. It has provided no evidence to support that assertion, which is vehemently denied by the Wall Street Journal.
The reporter's parents Mikhail Gershkovich and Ella Milman, who left the Soviet Union for the United States in 1979, were in court to support their son. They left afterwards without speaking to journalists.
Gershkovich, wearing blue jeans and a black T-shirt, stood in a glass box and smiled at reporters who were briefly allowed to film him before the start of the proceedings. He was appealing against his continued detention in Moscow's Lefortovo prison ahead of his trial, for which no date has been set.
Emma Tucker, the Wall Street Journal's editor in chief, told the BBC before the hearing that she had low expectations from the appeal but it was important to go through the legal process.
In April, a court denied an earlier request from Gershkovich's lawyers that he be transferred to house arrest, agree to restrictions on his movements, or be granted bail.
He is being held at a time when relations between Washington and Moscow are at the lowest point since the Cold War after Russia launched what it calls its "special military operation" in Ukraine.
Ambassador Tracy said Washington demanded the immediate release of Gershkovich and Paul Whelan, a former U.S. marine who was arrested in Russia in 2018 and jailed for 16 years in June 2020 on spying charges.
He too is designated by Washington as wrongfully detained, a term that means the United States considers the verdicts to be bogus and politically motivated.
(Reporting by Reuters, writing by Mark Trevelyan, editing by Mark Heinrich)