Russian court keeps U.S. journalist jailed ahead of espionage trial

Evan Gershkovich will have been incarcerated a full year when trial begins March 30

Wall Street Journal correspondent Evan Gershkovich has been "wrongfully detained" in Russia since March 2023. Photo by Yuri Kochetkov/EPA-EFE
Wall Street Journal correspondent Evan Gershkovich has been "wrongfully detained" in Russia since March 2023. Photo by Yuri Kochetkov/EPA-EFE

Jan. 26 (UPI) -- A Moscow court on Friday extended the detention of Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich, forcing him to wait behind bars for at least another two months before the start of his trial on espionage charges.

Gershkovich's trial has now been delayed a total of four times since the 32-year-old journalist was taken into custody last March while on assignment for the U.S. news outlet in the city of Yekaterinburg.


By the time his trial commences on March 30, Gershkovich will have been incarcerated for a full year.

If convicted, he faces up to 20 years in prison.

The Wall Street Journal vehemently denies the charges against Gershkovich, while the U.S. State Department has declared him "wrongfully detained" in Russia.

The news agency issued a statement condemning the court's decision.

"It is chilling and outrageous that Evan has now spent 10 months of his life in prison, simply for doing his job," said the statement, which was signed by the newspaper's parent company, Dow Jones. "While these are clearly sham proceedings about patently false charges, we intend to appeal today's ruling, as we have in the past. Journalism is not a crime, and we continue to demand Evan's immediate release."


Gershkovich, who is a U.S. citizen, appeared at the latest court hearing, only to learn that his time at Moscow's Lefortovo Prison would be prolonged.

Last week, American ambassador to Russia Lynne Tracy went to see Gershkovich in prison, after which the U.S. embassy issued a statement calling for "Evan's immediate release."

Repeated delays like that in Gershkovich's case are not unusual in the Russian court system, with similar legal matters taking a year or more to reach trial.

So far, no evidence has been presented to support the charges against Gershkovich, a situation that aligns with the opaque nature of the Russian justice system.

Russian officials have hinted at the possibility of a prisoner swap to free Gershkovich, but have emphasized that any such exchange would only be considered after a verdict is reached in his case.

In December, State Department spokesman Matthew Miller said Moscow rejected a "substantial" offer from the White House to gain the release of Gershkovich and Paul Whelan, a former U.S. Marine detained in Russia in 2018 who was sentenced to serve 16 years in a Russian penal colony.

Russian President Vladimir Putin also indicated last month that he was ready to "reach an agreement" on a potential prisoner swap and denied that Russia had rejected the offer from Washington.


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