By Jackie Hajdenberg
(JTA) — A Moscow court has upheld an extended detention for Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich, who must remain in jail on espionage charges until at least August 30.
Gershkovich, 31, is the son of Jewish refugees from the Soviet Union, and has been in Russia’s Lefortovo prison since late March. He is being held on an allegation of espionage that he, the Wall Street Journal and the U.S. government deny.
Russia’s Federal Security Service requested to extend the reporter’s detention, which was scheduled to end on May 29. The extended detention was then appealed by Gershkovich’s legal team. On Thursday, that appeal was rejected, and he will remain in jail at least until August.
“We were extremely disappointed by the denial of his appeal,” said U.S. Ambassador to Russia Lynne Tracy, who was at the Moscow courthouse Thursday. “The charges against him are baseless,” she said. “He is an innocent journalist who was carrying out journalistic activities and has been wrongfully detained.”
Gershkovich’s parents, Ella Milman and Mikhail Gershkovich, who left the Soviet Union in 1979, were in the courtroom Thursday morning. They had previously visited him in May.
“I am just happy to see him, and very, very sad to leave him,” Milman told The Wall Street Journal after the hearing concluded Thursday. “The heavy feeling is not leaving me.”
If convicted, Gershkovich could face up to 20 years in a Russian penal colony.
Danielle Gershkovich, Evan’s sister, remained in the U.S. and watched the decision unfold over video.
“There’s always a little bit of hope when these things happen, but we understand we’re in it for the long haul,” Danielle Gershkovich told the Wall Street Journal. “We’re all living in a place where we have to adjust our expectations, sometimes moment to moment.”
Evan Gershkovich is the first American journalist arrested in Russia on espionage charges since the end of the Cold War. His detainment has attracted interest and support from Jews and Jewish organizations around the world who have pushed for his release, sometimes invoking symbols of freedom for Soviet Jews used in the 1960s. Last week, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a unanimous resolution calling on Russia to free the journalist.