Russian court dismisses jailed Wall Street Journal reporter’s appeal

MOSCOW ̵1; A Moscow city court on Tuesday rejected an appeal by American journalist Ivan Gershkovich to be released from the high-security prison where he is being held on espionage charges.

Gershkovich’s defense team requested that the Wall Street Journal reporter be placed under house arrest, transferred to another prison, or released on bail.

Although the outcome of the appeals hearing was never really in doubt, it was significant because Gershkovich was seen in public for the first time since he was arrested in the Ural Mountains city of Yekaterinburg the previous month.

Confined to a glass cage, as is customary for defendants facing criminal charges in Russia, Gershkovitch seemed tense but calm. He smiled at the few colleagues and attendants he recognized before the courtroom emptied and the hearing began.

Espionage cases in Russia are kept secret and kept behind closed doors.

A handful of reporters were allowed back into the courtroom to watch for the judge’s decision. Gershkovich, dressed in light jeans and a checkered shirt, pacing back and forth in his glass cage, looked down.

Russia’s Federal Security Service, the FSB, detained Gershkovich on 29 March, accusing him of spying “for the American side”. A day later he was transferred to Moscow’s high-security Lefortovo prison, where he has been largely isolated except for a handful of meetings with his lawyers, state prison supervisors and a visit by the US ambassador after more than two weeks on Monday. – Stay away. Being denied consular access.

Speaking outside the courthouse on Tuesday, Ambassador Lynn Tracy told reporters that Gershkovich “is in good health and remains strong despite his circumstances.”

Gershkovich, who faces up to 20 years in prison, is the first foreign journalist to be arrested on espionage charges since the Cold War and his case sends a chilling signal to Americans in Russia and the country’s foreign press corps.

Inside the courthouse, a plainclothes man secretly filmed reporters who came to cover the case.

‘in fight mode’

Although details are sparse, the Kremlin has repeatedly claimed without providing evidence that Gershkovich was “caught red-handed.”

Gershkovich’s employer, the Wall Street Journal, has dismissed the allegations as bogus, and the White House has classified them as “wrongfully detained”, implying that Gershkovich was being held primarily for being an American citizen. was targeted for.

Gershkovich’s supporters hope he will eventually be released as part of a prisoner swap with the US, but in the past, such deals have come only after convictions, which in the journalist’s case took years. Otherwise it is likely to take months.

Outside court, Gershkovich’s lawyer Tatiana Nozhkina said he was “in fighting mood”, determined to prove his innocence and his right to free journalism.

In prison, she said, Gershkovich spent most of his time reading, watching television, including culinary programs, and trying to keep fit with exercise.

He said Gershkovich, who is the son of Soviet immigrants in America, joked in a letter to his mother that the prison’s oatmeal breakfast reminded him of his youth.

The next time Gershkovich may appear in court is in late May, when a judge must decide whether to extend the term or his pre-trial detention.