Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich stands in a glass cage in a courtroom in Yekaterinburg, Russia, at the start of his trial on espionage charges on June 26, 2024. (Photo: AP)

US journalist Evan Gershkovich faces 20-year sentence as trial begins in Russia

New York, June 26, 2024—As the closed-door trial of U.S. journalist Evan Gershkovich opened in a Russian court on Wednesday, the Committee to Protect Journalists denounced it as a travesty of justice and renewed its call for the journalist’s immediate release.

“U.S. reporter Evan Gershkovich goes on trial today after nearly 15 months of unjust detention. Given the spurious and unsubstantiated charges brought against him, this trial is nothing more than a masquerade,” said Gulnoza Said, CPJ’s Europe and Central Asia program coordinator. “Russian authorities must put an end to this travesty of justice, release Gershkovich, drop all charges against him, and stop prosecuting members of the press for their work.”

Gershkovich’s trial started Wednesday, June 26, in the Sverdlovsk Regional Court in the Russian city of Yekaterinburg, reports said. It is not known how long the trial will last.

Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) accused Gershkovich, a reporter with The Wall Street Journal, of collecting “secret information” for the CIA on a Russian tank factory in the Sverdlovsk region and arrested him on espionage charges on March 29, 2023.

Gershkovich faces up to 20 years in prison and is the first American journalist to face such accusations by Russia since the end of the Cold War. The journalist, his outlet, and the U.S. government have all denied the espionage allegations.

“No evidence has been unveiled. And we already know the conclusion: This bogus accusation of espionage will inevitably lead to a bogus conviction for an innocent man who would then face up to 20 years in prison for simply doing his job,” said Emma Tucker, editor-in-chief of The Wall Street Journal, in a Tuesday statement.

On June 13, the Russian prosecutor general’s office announced that Gershkovich’s indictment had been finalized.

“I think we were all hopeful that we were able to broker a deal with the Russians before this happened, but it doesn’t stop or slow us down,” Roger Carstens, the special presidential envoy for hostage affairs at the U.S. Department of State, told the House Foreign Affairs Committee the same day.

On April 11, 2023, the U.S. State Department designated Gershkovich as “wrongfully detained,” unlocking a broad government effort to free him.

Russia was the world’s fourth-worst jailer of journalists, with at least 22 behind bars, including Gershkovich and Alsu Kurmasheva, a U.S.-Russian journalist, when CPJ conducted its most recent prison census on December 1, 2023.