US journalist marks a year in a Russian prison as courts keep extending his time behind bars

The AP reports that Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich will remain detained at Lefortovo prison where he has been for the past year. On Tuesday another pretrial hearing was held with the same outcome as previous hearings, there were no new revelations on his case, the hearings were closed and he was ordered to remain behind bars pending trial at least until June 30 — the fifth extension of his detention.

Gershkovich was arrested a year ago Friday while on a reporting trip for The Wall Street Journal to the Ural Mountains city of Yekaterinburg. The Federal Security Service, or FSB, alleges he was acting on U.S. orders to collect state secrets but provided no evidence to support the accusation, which he, the Journal and the U.S. government deny. Washington designated him as wrongfully detained.

According to the AP, Gershkovich was the first  U.S. journalist taken into custody on espionage charges since Nicholas Daniloff in 1986 at the height of the Cold War — it came as a shock, even though Russia had enacted increasingly repressive laws on freedom of speech after the invasion of Ukraine. His supporters say that is remarkable, given that Gershkovich is being held in Lefortovo, a notorious czarist-era prison used during Josef Stalin’s purges, when executions were carried out in its basement.

The Biden administration is seeking the release of Gershkovich, who faces 20 years in prison. Russia’s Foreign Ministry has said it would consider a prisoner swap — but only after a verdict in his trial, which has not yet begun. U.S. Ambassador Lynne Tracy, who was at the Tuesday hearing for Gershkovich, said the charges against Gershkovich “are fiction” and that Russia is “using American citizens as pawns to achieve political ends.”

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