(Reuters) -U.S. reporter Evan Gershkovich faced a new hearing in Moscow on Thursday over his detention for alleged espionage, and Russia said it was considering a request by the United States to visit him in prison.
Interfax news agency quoted Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov as saying the request was under consideration. The U.S. ambassador has been able to visit the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) reporter only once since he was arrested in March and accused by the FSB security service of collecting military secrets in the city of Yekaterinburg. He denies the charges.
“These charges are completely bogus. They are vehemently denied by the Wall Street Journal, by the U.S. government, by his family. The Russians have produced absolutely no evidence whatsoever,” WSJ editor in chief Emma Tucker told the BBC.
The Kremlin has said Gershkovich was caught “red-handed” but has not provided details to support the assertion. If convicted, the journalist faces a sentence of up to 20 years.
A Moscow court on Thursday will hear an appeal by Gershkovich against his continued pre-trial detention, which was last month extended to Aug. 30. Tucker said, however, that her expectations from the hearing were low.
“If I’m being perfectly honest, we don’t expect anything to come of this but it’s really, really important to go through the process,” she said.
Gershkovich is being held at a time when relations between Washington and Moscow are at the lowest point since the Cold War because of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February last year.
The United States has called him “wrongfully detained,” a term used by the State Department to deem the charges bogus and the arrest politically motivated.
Tucker said the “really horrifying” thing about Gershkovich’s case was that it had become part of the geopolitical confrontation between the two countries.
“Whatever it takes to get Evan out is going to be a very complicated puzzle. To be honest, the American government don’t have that much leverage any more, essentially they are helping Russia’s enemy fight a war against it. So things are difficult,” she said.
(Reporting by Mark Trevelyan and Alexander Marrow in LondonEditing by Peter Graff)
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