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A Russian court has granted a request by investigators to extend the detention of Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich, who was jailed by Russian authorities earlier this year on espionage charges.
The Lefortovo District Court, during a closed hearing, ruled Thursday that Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) could keep the 31-year-old Gershkovich behind bars awaiting trial until Nov. 30, the Wall Street Journal reported.
The U.S. government and the Journal vehemently deny any alleged espionage and have called for the Russian government to release Gershkovich, who was first detained in the Russian city of Yekaterinburg on March 29. The city is about 1,100 miles east of Moscow and 240 miles north of Russia’s border with Kazakhstan.
His trial was scheduled for May 29, two months after his initial detention, but a court previously granted an extension through Aug. 30. The court’s second extension on Thursday could mean the reporter remains imprisoned for at least eight months.
RUSSIA OFFICIALS ISSUE 2ND REQUEST TO EXTEND PRE-TRIAL DETENTION OF IMPRISONED WSJ REPORTER EVAN GERSHKOVICH
U.S. journalist Evan Gershkovich is escorted outside court in Moscow on Aug. 24, 2023. (Natalia Kolesnikova/AFP via Getty Images)
While Thursday’s hearing was closed to media, some reporters were able to see Gershkovich entering the Moscow court.
Photos online appear to show the 31-year-old being held by the arm and escorted into the facility. He was wearing a dark-colored plaid button-up with blue jeans and black shoes.
A Moscow court decided on Aug. 24, 2024, to extend the pre-trial detention of Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich, a court spokesperson told AFP on Aug. 23, 2023. (Natalia Kolesnikova/AFP via Getty Images)
The Wall Street Journal responded to the decision in a statement saying it was “deeply disappointed” and the allegations against him are “categorically false.”
“Today, our colleague and distinguished journalist Evan Gershkovich appeared for a pre-trial hearing where his improper detention was extended yet again,” the Journal said. “We are deeply disappointed he continues to be arbitrarily and wrongfully detained for doing his job as a journalist. The baseless accusations against him are categorically false, and we continue to push for his immediate release. Journalism is not a crime.”
Russian law allows extensions for pretrial detention for up to 12 months in certain cases. (Natalia Kolesnikova/AFP via Getty Images)
While the U.S. State Department and its diplomats have called for Russia to release Gershkovich, President Vladimir Putin and Russian authorities have met the pleas with diplomatic silence.
Russian law allows extensions for pretrial detention for up to 12 months in some instances.
Attempts by attorneys representing Gershkovich to secure his release have also been denied.
Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich, a U.S. citizen, worked in Russia for six years before he was detained in Yekaterinburg on March 29. (Sefa Karacan/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
Evan Gershkovich, 31, was charged with spying in the interests of the American government and espionage, according to the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB). (Sefa Karacan/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
In April, Secretary of State Antony Blinken initially called for Gershkovich’s release, saying, “Journalism is not a crime.”
He added: “We condemn the Kremlin’s continued repression of independent voices in Russia, and its ongoing war against the truth.”
U.S. Ambassador to Russia Lynne Tracy speaks to the press after Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich appeared in court to appeal against the decision to keep him in a former KGB prison. (Sefa Karacan/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
U.S. Ambassador to Russia Lynne Tracy, who has visited the imprisoned Gershkovich at least three times and most recently on Aug. 14, said he remains in good health despite being held at Moscow’s notoriously harsh Lefortovo prison.
IMPRISONED WSJ REPORTER EVAN GERSHKOVICH VISITED BY US AMBASSADOR TO RUSSIA: SAYS HE’S IN ‘GOOD HEALTH’
“Ambassador Tracy said that Evan appears in good health and remains strong, despite his very challenging circumstances. Embassy officials will continue to provide all appropriate support to Evan and his family. And we expect Russian authorities to provide continued consular access,” State Department spokesman Vedant Patel said.
The U.S. government has also called for the release of American citizen Paul Whelan, a U.S. Marine Corps veteran arrested by Russian authorities in 2018.
A view of the Moscow court entrance as Evan Gershkovich, not seen, appears in court to appeal an extension to his detainment. (Sefa Karacan/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
He was accused of spying and was sentenced to 16 years in prison on June 15, 2020.
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Gershkovich had been based in Russia for nearly six years before his arrest. He is the first American reporter to face espionage charges in Russia since the 1980s.
Fox News’ Danielle Wallace and The Associated Press contributed to this report.