Evan Gershkovich Begins Trial in Russia on Espionage Charges, Faces Up to 20 Years in Prison

For nearly fifteen months, Evan Gershkovich has been locked away in a Moscow jail. Today, the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) reporter went on trial a thousand miles from the Russian capital in Yekaterinburg, where he was arrested on espionage charges during a reporting trip.

Media agencies, were allowed into the courtroom at the Sverdlovsk Regional Courthouse to see him before proceedings began. Head shaven and wearing a check shirt and jeans, Mr. Gershkovich stood in the metal and glass cage known in Russian courtrooms as “the aquarium.” He smiled at the cameras but made no comment.

After a few minutes, we were asked to leave the room. The rest of the trial will be held behind closed doors.

Prosecutors claim that the American journalist was collecting classified information about a Russian tank manufacturer near Yekaterinburg on behalf of the United States’ Central Intelligence Agency. Mr. Gershkovich, his employer, and the US government vehemently reject the charge. If convicted, he faces a maximum sentence of twenty years in prison.

“This is a bogus process. It’s outrageous and outlandish,” said Deborah Ball, deputy world coverage chief for Europe, Middle East, and Africa at the Wall Street Journal. “[Evan] will not enjoy any of the due process that we would expect in any Western court. It will be closed door. It will be secret. Russia’s acquittal rate is less than one percent. We don’t expect any chance of him being acquitted.”

On the streets of Yekaterinburg, there is little hint of the drama that unfolded here on March 29, 2023. Russians stroll past the steakhouse where Evan Gershkovich was detained by Russian security agents. Across town, people sit outside playing chess as trams rumble by.

The WSJ has accused Moscow of “stockpiling Americans” in Russian jails to be traded for Russians imprisoned abroad.

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