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HomeMarketRussia begins closed-door trial for U.S. reporter Gershkovich on spy fees By...

Russia begins closed-door trial for U.S. reporter Gershkovich on spy fees By Reuters

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YEKATERINBURG, Russia (Reuters) -A shaven-headed Evan Gershkovich went on trial behind closed doorways on Wednesday in a Russian courtroom the place the U.S. journalist is dealing with accusations of espionage.

Prosecutors say the Wall Avenue Journal reporter gathered secret data on the orders of the U.S. Central Intelligence Company about an organization that manufactures tanks for Russia’s battle in Ukraine. If convicted, he faces a sentence of as much as 20 years.

Gershkovich, his newspaper and the U.S. authorities all reject the allegations and say that he was simply doing his job as a reporter accredited by Russia’s Overseas Ministry to work there.

“His case is not about evidence, procedural norms, or the rule of law. It is about the Kremlin using American citizens to achieve its political objectives,” the U.S. embassy in Moscow stated in a press release, calling for Gershkovich’s quick launch.

After a number of hours of closed proceedings, the courtroom stated the subsequent session would happen on Aug. 13 – a sign the case will drag on for months. The explanation for the lengthy interval was not clear.

Journalists had been briefly allowed to movie the 32-year-old Gershkovich earlier than the beginning of the trial, from which the media are barred. Carrying an open-necked shirt and standing in a glass field, he smiled faintly and nodded at colleagues he recognised.

Prosecutor Mikael Ozdoyev later summarised the fees for reporters.

“The investigation established and documented that… Gershkovich, on instructions from the CIA, in September 2023, in the Sverdlovsk region, collected secret information about the activities of a defence enterprise regarding the production and repair of military equipment,” Ozdoyev stated.

“Gershkovich carried out the illegal actions while observing painstaking conspiratorial measures,” he added.

Ozdoyev later advised reporters he had misspoken, and the alleged offence was truly in March 2023 – the month of the reporter’s arrest.

CLOSED HEARING

Closed trials are normal process in Russia for instances of alleged treason or espionage involving categorised state materials, which usually can final a number of months.

The Kremlin says the case, and the preparations for it, are a matter for the courtroom, however has acknowledged – with out publishing proof – that Gershkovich was caught “red-handed”.

Towards the background of the Ukraine battle, Gershkovich and different Individuals detained in Russia have been caught up within the gravest disaster between Moscow and Washington for greater than 60 years.

President Vladimir Putin has stated Russia is open to the concept of a prisoner trade involving Gershkovich and that contacts with the US have taken place, however they need to stay secret.

The U.S. has accused Russia of conducting “hostage diplomacy”. It has designated Gershkovich and one other jailed American, Paul Whelan, as “wrongfully detained” and says it’s dedicated to bringing them residence.

The U.S. embassy assertion stated Russian authorities had failed to offer proof supporting the fees towards Gershkovich or to clarify why his work as a journalist constituted a criminal offense.

The trial is happening within the metropolis of Yekaterinburg, the place officers of the FSB safety service arrested Gershkovich on March 29, 2023, whereas he was consuming in a steakhouse. Since then he has spent practically 16 months in Moscow’s Lefortovo jail.

The Wall Avenue Journal has declined to touch upon the aim of his reporting journey to Russia’s Urals area or on the particular allegation by prosecutors that Gershkovich was attempting to collect data on Uralvagonzavod, a provider of tanks for Russia’s battle in Ukraine.

“He was there as an accredited journalist, doing his job,” Wall Avenue Journal writer Almar Latour advised Reuters in a cellphone interview earlier than the trial.

Many Western information organisations pulled employees out of Russia after Putin despatched his military into Ukraine in February 2022. Russia then handed legal guidelines that set lengthy jail phrases for “discrediting” the armed forces or spreading “fake news” about them.

Gershkovich was one in all a small variety of Western reporters, additionally together with journalists from Reuters, who continued to report from inside Russia.

One other journalist, Russian-American Alsu Kurmasheva, was arrested final 12 months and is awaiting trial on fees of violating Russia’s “foreign agent” legislation and spreading false details about the armed forces, which she denies.

Earlier this month a French researcher, Laurent Vinatier, was arrested and accused of failing to register as a international agent whereas gathering details about Russia’s army.

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