Evan Gershkovich, WSJ Reporter Detained in Russia, Will Likely Spend Months in Prison

If past cases are a guide, the American reporter accused of spying in Russia could end up spending more than a year in a high-security and near-completely isolated prison to wait. ended a lengthy investigation and trial, according to two Russian lawyers. worked on similar cases.

Russian authorities said on Thursday that they had jailed Evan Gershkovich, reporter for The Wall Street Journal, and accused him of espionage. The magazine and US officials have vehemently denied the allegation that Mr. Gershkovich was a spy, and Russian authorities have provided no evidence to support this allegation. If convicted, Mr Gershkovich faces up to 20 years in prison in a Russian penal colony. (The acquittal in espionage cases is virtually unheard of.)

Mr. Gershkovich, who was detained while reporting in the city of Yekaterinburg and then transferred to Moscow, where a district court on Thursday formally detained him until May 29. But according to Ivan Pavlov , a Russian lawyer who has defended Russian clients in a number of espionage and treason cases, the proceedings could take much longer—up to two years.

In the meantime, the details of the case will most likely be hidden from the public, he said.

Mr Pavlov, who had to flee Russia in 2021, said: “I doubt the investigators will produce any evidence. Everything happens behind closed doors.”

Mr. Pavlov is one of Russia’s most famous human rights lawyers, and before going into exile he regularly represented high-profile defendants in cases involving the Federal Security Service, of the FSB. , the successor to the Soviet KGB has great influence in Russia .

Russian state news agency, TASS, report on Thursday, Mr. Gershkovich’s case was classified and he was transferred to Lefortovo prison. Pavlov said it is likely that the journalist will stay in Lefortovo during the trial.

Lefortovo was used by the KGB as a detention center for dissidents with the Soviet Union. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, it was used by the FSB to isolate opponents of the Kremlin.

Living conditions in the prison are considered to be above average by Russian prison standards — prisoners often share a cell with only one person and have hot water available.

Mr. Gershkovich will most likely have access to the prison library and be able to order books on a Russian online bookstore, Mr. Pavlov said. He will also likely have a television in his cell, but only with the main Russian networks available. And Mr. Gershkovich will be able to receive packages, receive letters and postcards, including through the website of the prison service.

But isolation is a real challenge, Mr. Pavlov said, especially since attorneys typically only get the chance to see their clients every few weeks.

According to Vladimir A. Zherebenkov, a Russian lawyer who defended Paul Whelan, a former US Marine sentenced to 16 years in prison in Russia for false espionage, lawyers had to draw lots to determine who could be. visit their client in Lefortovo. fee.

Mr. Zherebenkov said that investigators had tools at their disposal to put pressure on Mr. Gershkovich, including allowing or denying visits by his family.

“It’s a form of discipline – if you say something we need, we’ll let you visit,” Mr. Zherebenkov said in a phone interview.

Mr. Pavlov said the prison was connected to the building of the FSB’s investigative department, where Mr. Gershkovich would likely be questioned several times. He added that if previous cases are any indication, the investigation could last up to 18 months and the trial could last up to six months. He added that a subsequent appeal could take another four months.

Court proceedings could be expedited if there is indeed a prospect of a prisoner exchange, however, on Thursday, Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister, Sergei A. Ryabkov, signaled that it was too early to discuss the matter. the exchange of Mr. Gershkovich.

According to Russian news agency Interfax, Ryabkov told reporters: “Some of the exchanges that took place in the past took place with people serving sentences,” adding, “Let’s see how this story unfolds. how it develops.”


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