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Moscow court refuses to hear appeal on detention by reporter Evan Gershkovich

UPI
WSJ correspondent Evan Gershkovich appears inside a defendant cage as he attends an appeal hearing Tuesday. Gershkovich's appeal against the extension of his arrest term on espionage charges at the Moscow City Court in Moscow, Russia, was turned away without a ruling. He will remain jailed at least through November. Photo by Yuri Kochetkov/EPA-EFE

Sept. 19 (UPI) -- Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich will remain behind bars in Russia after a Moscow court on Tuesday refused to hear an appeal over his pre-trial detention.

Gershkovich appeared inside a defendant cage at Moscow City Court's closed-door hearing, where he appealed the court's August decision to extend his pretrial detention for a second time. He was turned away without a ruling and will remain in jail at least through Nov. 30.

"The Moscow City Court considered the lawyers' complaint in a closed court session and decided to remove the material regarding E. Gershkovich from appeal consideration, and send the material to the Lefortovo District Court of Moscow to eliminate the circumstances impeding the consideration of the criminal case in the appellate court," the court said in a statement Tuesday.

Gershkovich has seen his pre-trial detention extended twice, once in May and again in August, since his arrest on March 29 by Russia's Federal Security Service on espionage charges while reporting in Yekaterinburg, Russia.

Gershkovich, the Wall Street Journal and the United States have denied the charges against him. If convicted, the journalist faces up to 20 years in prison.

"The U.S. position remains unwavering. The charges against Evan are baseless," Lynne Tracy, the U.S. Ambassador to the Russian Federation, told reporters outside the Moscow courthouse Tuesday. "The Russian government locked up Evan for simply doing his job. Journalism is not a crime."

"Although we could not speak with Evan in the courtroom today, I was able to visit him at the Lefortovo prison last week. Evan is fully aware of the gravity of his situation, yet he remains remarkably strong," Tracy added.

Last week, Gershkovich's parents delivered a petition to the United Nations, urging world leaders to push for his immediate release. The family of Paul Whelan, who is serving a 16-year sentence on espionage charges at the IK17 penal colony in the Republic of Moldavia, have also kept up pressure on U.S. diplomats to negotiate a release for the former Marine.

"The plight of U.S. citizens wrongfully detained in Russia remains a top priority for me, my team at the embassy and the entire U.S. government," Tracy said.

"It is unacceptable that Evan Gershkovich and Paul Whelan still languish in Russian prisons on charges that are baseless. The United States will not rest until Evan and Paul are safely at home."