Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich will remain behind bars after a Moscow court refused to hear an appeal against his pre-trial detention on Tuesday.
The Moscow City Court said in a statement it was sending the motion back to a lower court – effectively quashing it for the time being.
The decision is the latest legal setback for Gershkovich, whose pre-trial detention has been extended twice since his arrest, once in May and again in August. An appeal against his first pre-trial detention was also denied.
With the court’s latest decision, Gershkovich will remain in jail until at least November 30, Russia’s Tass news agency reported.
Gershkovich was arrested in March while on a reporting trip. The FSB, Russia’s main security service, accused him of trying to obtain state secrets – a charge Gershkovich and his employer have strenuously denied.
If convicted, he faces up to 20 years in prison.
Journalists were allowed in the courtroom before the hearing began. Amid tight security, photographers crowded around Gershkovich as he stood in a glass enclosure wearing jeans and a light shirt. It’s unclear if he could hear a question posed to him by CNN.
Detention is source of tension
US Ambassador to Russia Lynne Tracy was in the courtroom on Tuesday.
“The US position remains unwavering. The charges against Evan are baseless. The Russian government locked Evan up for simply doing his job. Journalism is not a crime,” Tracy told reporters outside the courthouse.
Tracy added that she had visited Gershkovich last week at Russia’s notorious Lefortovo prison, where the journalist is being held.
“Evan is fully aware of the gravity of his situation, yet he remains remarkably strong,” she said, adding that he is keeping his mind sharp by playing chess with his father by mail.
Gershkovich’s continued imprisonment has been a source of tension between Washington and Moscow, whose relations were already deeply strained due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine last year.
The White House alleges the Kremlin is using Gershkovich, the first American reporter jailed in Russia on allegations of spying since the Cold War, as a geopolitical hostage.
“The world knows that the charges against Evan are baseless – he was arrested in Russia during the course of simply doing his job as a journalist, and he is being held by Russia for leverage because he is an American,” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said in July to mark Gershkovich’s 100th day behind bars.
The US State Department declared in April that Gershkovich had been wrongfully detained, a move that empowered the Biden administration to seek his release through avenues such as prisoner exchanges.
Though talks of a swap between the White House and the Kremlin have taken place, they have failed to secure his release.
US President Joe Biden said that he is “serious about doing what we can to free Americans who are being illegally held in Russia or anywhere else for that matter. And that process is underway.”