US Journalist Evan Gershkovich Detained in Russia
A Russian court on Tuesday rejected the request for the release of American journalist Evan Gershkovich, who remains “combative” despite his continued detention on espionage charges which he rejects, according to his lawyer. The arrest at the end of March of this correspondent of the prestigious American daily The Wall Street Journal for espionage, the first case of its kind in decades in Russia, is part of a context of crisis between Washington and Moscow because of the conflict in Ukraine.
Appearing in court for the first time in public since his incarceration, Evan Gershkovich, face determined and arms folded, repeatedly smiled at reporters filming or photographing him. The 31-year-old reporter, who himself covered several trials in Russia, was this time on the other side, locked in the glass cage reserved for the defendants, with deep marks of handcuffs on his wrists.
After a closed hearing, the judge decided to “leave unchanged” the provisional detention measure until at least May 29, a journalist from Agence France-Presse (AFP) told the court. Despite this decision, Evan Gershkovich remains “combative”, told AFP his lawyer, Maria Kortchaguina. In prison, “he plays sports, he understands that people support him”she added. “He challenged his detention, he wants to prove that he is not guilty, he wants to prove that there is still space for freedom of the press”she continued.
The Russian security services (FSB) arrested him at the end of March while he was on assignment in Yekaterinburg, in the Urals. The Kremlin claims that he was arrested in the act of spying, without advancing any evidence to this effect, the file being classified secret. He was officially accused of gathering information on the defense industry. Evan Gershkovich, his family, his employer and the American authorities categorically reject the charges of espionage, punishable by twenty years in prison, accusing Moscow of attacking him for his work as a journalist.
The American ambassador to Moscow, Lynne Tracy, present in court on Tuesday, had been able to visit him the day before for the first time since the beginning of his imprisonment. “He is in good health and in good spirits despite the circumstances”said Mr.me Tracy on Twitter after the match.