Monday, April 22, 2024

Russian court extends WSJ reporter’s detention by 3 months

The Lefortovsky District Court of Moscow has extended the pre-trial detention of American journalist Evan Gershkovich for three months to August 30, Russian state news agency RIA Novosti reported citing the court.

“The court granted the investigator’s request to extend the measure of restraint in the form of detention until August 30,” the court said, according to the state media.

Gershkovich, who has been designated as wrongfully detained by the US State Department, appeared in court in April to ask that his pre-trial detention be under house arrest rather than in jail. That appeal was denied, and he is being held at Moscow’s notorious Lefortovo Prison.

The Wall Street Journal announced it was “deeply disappointed” with the court’s decision.

“While we expected there would be no change to Evan’s wrongful detention, we are deeply disappointed. The accusations are demonstrably false, and we continue to demand his immediate release,” it said in a statement Tuesday.

The White House is reiterating that Gershkovich “shouldn’t be detained at all”.

John Kirby of the US National Security Council told CNN’s Kate Bolduan he was learning the news of that extension at that moment, saying, “I don’t know if I have an official reaction by the White House on this except to say that he shouldn’t be detained at all.”

“Journalism is not a crime. We’ve said this before. He needs to be released immediately. That is still President Biden’s view. It’s still the administration’s view. And we’re still going to work very, very hard to see if we can get him home with his family where he belongs. He should not be detained, certainly not extended,” he stated.

The State Department called on Russia to immediately release him and the other detained American, Paul Whelan. Spokesperson Matthew Miller called the claims against Gershkovich baseless.

Kirby said the United States wants consular access to Gershkovich, which the Russians have denied two requests this month. He said these visits are important to talk to Gershkovich directly and see how he’s doing.

“It’s difficult to know exactly why they’re denying it. It could be just, you know, spitefulness over — you know, antipathy towards the United States, antipathy towards the free press, or there could be some sort of legal excuse that they’re trying to pin this on,” Kirby added.

Miller also acknowledged that Gershkovich’s parents were present in Moscow, but stressed the US did not help them travel to Russia, as the State Department is advising US citizens not to travel to the country.

“Personally, I can only imagine how difficult it must be to see your child detained overseas, especially to be detained wrongfully, and so I’m certainly not going to criticize any parent for wanting to see their child,” Miller continued.

The US embassy in Moscow has also said it was “deeply concerned” by the Russian court’s decision.

“We are deeply concerned by today’s Russian court decision to prolong the pre-trial detention of Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich by an additional three months. This follows last week’s denial of the Embassy’s request for a consular visit to Evan Gershkovich, marking the second time Russian authorities have unjustifiably denied consular access in this case,” the embassy said in a statement.

“The United States strongly objects to Russia’s ongoing denial of consular access to Mr. Gershkovich. We reiterate that the claims against him are baseless and call for Mr. Gershkovich’s immediate release,” it added.

The Kremlin has so far not commented on Washington alleging Moscow of denying the embassy’s consular access to Gershkovich.

When asked by CNN about this topic during a regular briefing with journalists earlier on Tuesday, Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov stated, “No, we are not dealing with this issue.”

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