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Detained “Wall Street Journal” reporter Evan Gershkovich loses appeal in Russian court

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(LONDON) — The detained Wall Street Journal reporter, Evan Gershkovich, has had his appeal for release denied by a Russian court for the third time.

The Moscow City Court rejected the appeal of the defense of Gershkovich, a correspondent for the Moscow bureau of The Wall Street Journal, accused of espionage, against the decision of the first instance to extend his arrest until the end of November, an Interfax correspondent reported.

“The decision of the Lefortovo Court of Moscow dated August 24, 2023 on extending the period of detention in relation to Gershkovich until November 30, 2023 is left unchanged, the appeal is not satisfied,” says the court decision announced on Tuesday.

The court hearing was held behind closed doors because the materials of the criminal case are classified.

Gershkovich appeared inside a plexiglass and wood box inside the Russian courtroom on Tuesday morning. He has had two failed appeals since his arrest in March on espionage charges.

Previously, Gershkovich’s lawyers stated that, in the opinion of the defense, a preventive measure not related to detention in a pre-trial detention center could be chosen for him.

Gershkovich has now been in Russian detention for over six months, held on the spying charges that The Wall Street Journal, the U.S. and dozens of international media organizations have condemned as false. Most experts believe Russia has fabricated the charges in order to seize Gershkovich as a hostage to use as a bargaining chip with the U.S.

Tuesday’s hearing was held behind closed doors and reporters were only allowed into the courtroom briefly at the start. Gershkovich was wearing the same clothes he had been arrested in and smiled and laughed with reporters through the glass, but he was not permitted to speak.

Gershkovich, 31, was arrested in March by Russia’s powerful domestic intelligence agency the FSB while on a reporting trip to the city of Yekaterinburg. He has been held since then in Moscow’s Lefortovo prison.

He faces up to 20 years in prison if convicted.

He is one of a series of Americans seized by Russia in recent years, including the two former Marines Trevor Reed and Paul Whelan, as well as the WNBA star Brittney Griner. Reed and Griner were both released in prisoner swaps agreed between the Biden administration and the Kremlin in exchange for Russians convicted of crimes in the U.S.

Whelan currently remains in a prison camp serving a 16-year sentence for espionage charges the U.S. and his family says were also fabricated.

The Biden administration has confirmed it is in discussions with the Kremlin over a deal to free Gershkovich, as well as Whelan. But it has cautioned that so far there has been little progress.

Gershkovich, who grew up in New Jersey to Russian-speaking Jewish emigres, has been a Moscow correspondent since 2017, working first for The Moscow Times and Agence France Presse before joining the Journal in 2022.

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