Jailed US journalist faces espionage trial in Russia

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US State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller on Thursday said the allegations against Gershkovich have “absolutely zero credibility.”…reports Asian Lite News

Evan Gershkovich, the first American journalist to be arrested on espionage charges in Russia since the Cold War, will stand trial in the Russian city of Yekaterinburg, after being formally accused of spying for the CIA, CNN reported.

The Russian Prosecutor General’s office said Thursday it had approved the indictment, more than a year after Gershkovich was first detained. If convicted, he faces up to 20 years in prison.

Gershkovich, the US government, and his employer, the Wall Street Journal, have vehemently denied the charges against him.

Less than two weeks after his arrest, Gershkovich was designated as “wrongfully detained” by the US State Department, which called for his immediate release.

Russian prosecutors said the country’s federal security service (FSB) had “established and documented” that Gershkovich was acting on CIA instructions in the month he was arrested, alleging he had “collected secret information” about a Russian tank factory.

“Gershkovich carried out the illegal actions using painstaking conspiratorial methods,” it said in a statement.

US State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller on Thursday said the allegations against Gershkovich have “absolutely zero credibility.”

“We have been clear from the start that Evan has done nothing wrong. He should never have been arrested in the first place. Journalism is not a crime. The charges against him are false, and the Russian government knows that they’re false. He should be released immediately,” Miller said at a State Department briefing.

Miller, the State Department spokesperson, reiterated that the US would continue to pursue Gershkovich’s release, as well that of Whelan, a former US marine who was arrested in Moscow in 2018 and sentenced to 16 years in prison on espionage charges he and the US deny.

“We put a substantial offer on the table to secure the release of Evan and Paul Whelan some months ago, as we said,” Miller said. “Obviously, we’re continuing to work to secure their release. We don’t talk about all the details of that publicly.”

Since being arrested, the 32-year-old journalist has been imprisoned in Moscow’s notorious Lefortovo Prison, and his pre-trial detention period has been extended numerous times, CNN reported.

The State Department’s top hostage official confirmed on Thursday-: “As of today, Evan’s detention and the investigative process has ended.”

Responding to Thursday’s announcement by Russia, WSJ Editor-in-Chief Emma Tucker said Gershkovich is facing a “false and baseless” charge.

“Russia’s latest move toward a sham trial is, while expected, deeply disappointing and still no less outrageous. Evan has spent 441 days wrongfully detained in a Russian prison for simply doing his job. Evan is a journalist. The Russian regime’s smearing of Evan is repugnant, disgusting, and based on calculated and transparent lies. Journalism is not a crime. Evan’s case is an assault on free press,” Tucker said in a statement.

Reporters Without Borders, an international group promoting press freedom has also denounced Gershkovich’s indictment.

“The espionage accusations must be abandoned and Evan immediately liberated,” it said in a statement.

Earlier, Russian President Vladimir Putin hinted that “an agreement can be reached” with the United States to release Gershkovich, as he brought up the conviction of a “patriotic” Russian hitman in Germany.

Speaking in a lengthy and at times ponderous interview with American right-wing pundit Tucket Carlson in February, Putin alluded to the case of Vadim Krasikov, a former colonel from Russia’s domestic spy organization who was convicted of assassinating a former Chechen fighter in broad daylight in Berlin in 2019.

“Listen, I’ll tell you: sitting in one country, a country that is an ally of the United States, is a man who, for patriotic reasons, eliminated a bandit in one of the European capitals,” Putin said.

Amid escalating tensions, Russia has detained a number of other Americans as well in recent years. Russian-American journalist Alsu Kurmasheva was detained in June 2023, Russian-American ballerina Ksenia Karelina was arrested in January, and American teacher Marc Fogel was arrested in August 2021, as reported by CNN. (ANI)

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