A Russian judge has denied Evan Gershkovich’s appeal against his detention on espionage charges. His lawyers requested he be let out of the former KGB prison where he is being held on bail of 50 million roubles ($614,000 USD) or put under house arrest. This marks the first time espionage charges have been levied against an American since 1986, when the Cold War was in full swing. If found guilty, Gershkovich, 31, faces up to twenty years in a Russian prison.
The FSB, Russia’s intelligence agency, has accused the WSJ reporter of attempting to steal state secrets regarding Russia’s military for the benefit of the United States government – accusations that have been condemned by US officials and President Biden as false, unfounded, and politically motivated.
In today’s hearing, which is being held behind closed doors, camera people were allowed in the courtroom briefly, providing us with the first photos of Gershkovich since his arrest in early March. He appeared inside of a glass box, known as the “aquarium”, wearing jeans and a button down shirt, offering a small smile for the camera. There were marks on his wrist where he had been handcuffed.
US ambassador to Moscow, Lynne Tracy, was also present in the courtroom – the same court where Vladimir Kara-Murza, Kremlin opposition and critic, was just convicted of treason and sentenced to prison on Monday. Outside of the courtroom, Ms Tracy stated that she had been given access to Gershkovich for the first time yesterday, and that he was in “good health and remains strong despite the circumstances.”
Led by the United States, more than 40 countries have come together and released a joint statement at the United Nations meeting on Monday, calling for Gershkovich’s release and going on to condemn the Kremlin for attempting to intimidate the media.
As things stand, Gershkovich will be held until May 19th 2023 at the least.