US reporter Gershkovich returns to Moscow court in new appeal against detention

MOSCOW (Reuters) -U.S. reporter Evan Gershkovich returned to a Moscow court on Tuesday to appeal against the latest extension of his pre-trial detention on spying charges, which he denies.

Gershkovich, a reporter for the Wall Street Journal, was arrested on March 29 in the Urals city of Yekaterinburg on charges of espionage that carry up to 20 years in prison.

No date has been set for his trial, and last month his detention in Moscow’s Lefortovo prison was extended by three months to Nov. 30.

He has failed in two previous appeals, in April and June.

The United States says Russia is using Gershkovich to conduct “hostage diplomacy”, at a time when relations between the two countries have plunged to their lowest point in more than 60 years because of the conflict in Ukraine.

Gershkovich, wearing a pale yellow top and blue jeans, stood in a glass box in the courtroom, where media were allowed to film him before the start of the proceedings.

U.S. Ambassador Lynne Tracy, who visited the 32-year-old in prison last week, was also in court.

Washington says the case against him is bogus and has demanded the release of both Gershkovich and Paul Whelan, a U.S. citizen convicted of espionage in 2020 and serving 16 years in a Russian penal colony on spying charges that he too denies.

Russia has agreed in the past to high-profile prisoner exchanges with the United States, most recently last year when basketball star Brittney Griner, sentenced on a drugs charge, was traded for convicted Russian arms trafficker Viktor Bout.

Moscow has said no exchange could take place in Gershkovich’s case until a verdict has been reached.

(Reporting by ReutersEditing by Gareth Jones)

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