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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

Russian judge extends detention of American journalist

Outside the Lefortovo District Court in Moscow on Tuesday, where the detention of Evan Gershkovich, a Wall Street Journal correspondent accused of espionage, was extended.

By Roger Cohen

Meeting behind closed doors, a Moscow court on Tuesday extended the arrest of Evan Gershkovich, a Wall Street Journal correspondent accused of espionage, for more than three months, until Aug. 30.

The refusal of bail and the extension of Gershkovich’s detention were widely expected, although Russia has presented no evidence to back the espionage accusation. The U.S. government and The Wall Street Journal have vehemently rejected the charges, saying that “reporting is not a crime.”

Gershkovich’s parents, Ella Milman and Mikhail Gershkovich, waited for more than an hour outside the courtroom before being allowed into the hearing. It was their first sighting of their son since his arrest March 29. The couple, who live in New Jersey, arrived in Moscow on Saturday.

State Department spokesperson Matt Miller told reporters in a briefing Tuesday that the United States did not arrange travel for Gershkovich’s parents to attend their son’s hearing. He added that, while he can only imagine their pain, the United States has advised all Americans to avoid traveling to Russia.

After the hearing, Gershkovich’s parents did not comment on what they had seen, but were whisked away in the company of one of Gershkovich’s lawyers. Milman wore a “Free Evan” button. Before going into the hearing, Gershkovich’s father said, “We hope he is doing great and that he can be as strong as his mother.”

Gershkovich, 31, has been held at the Lefortovo jail since he was detained March 29 during a reporting trip to the central Russian city of Yekaterinburg. If convicted, Gershkovich would face up to 20 years in a Russian penal colony.

A prisoner exchange, such as the one that secured the release of U.S. basketball star Brittney Griner late last year, would not take place until after a verdict is reached in the case, Russian officials have said. However, the Biden administration is known to be working to secure an early release.

The U.S. government, The Wall Journal Journal, numerous colleagues, groups supporting press freedom and prominent international officials have all condemned Gershkovich’s detention and called the accusations made against him utterly baseless.

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