A Moscow court has upheld the detention of Evan Gershkovich, an American journalist arrested on spying charges as part of a sweeping Kremlin crackdown on dissent.
The Wall Street Journal reporter, who reported on the Ukraine war from Russia, is the first correspondent from the United States since the Cold War to be detained in Russia on spying allegations. Gershkovich and the US government vehemently deny the allegations.
Dozens of journalists on Tuesday crowded into the courtroom to catch a glimpse of Gershkovich, who smiled and looked calm as he stood inside a glass enclosure to appeal his detention.
He has a fighting spirit,” Maria Korchagina, one of his lawyers, said after the hearing. “He’s working out, and he knows that people are supporting him.”
Russia’s FSB security service arrested Gershkovich on March 29 in the Urals city of Yekaterinburg, accusing him of trying to obtain classified information about a Russian arms factory.
“Evan is a member of the free press who right up until he was arrested was engaged in newsgathering,” The Wall Street Journal said in a statement. “Any suggestions otherwise are false.”
If convicted, Gershkovich could face up to 20 years in prison.
Russian lawyers have said past investigations into espionage cases took a year to 18 months, during which time the suspect might have little contact with the outside world.
Gershkovich has been held in Moscow’s Lefortovo prison, which dates back to the czarist era and has been a symbol of repression since Soviet times.
Last week, the US officially declared that Gershkovich was “wrongfully detained”. US President Joe Biden has called his imprisonment “totally illegal”.