MOSCOW | Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich filed an appeal Tuesday to be released from jail on espionage charges, but the Moscow City Court did not immediately rule on it, causing confusion from Russian media that reported contradictory results from the closed session.
The court said in a statement it sent Gershkovich’s case back to a lower court due to procedural violations. The state news agency Tass reported the court had rejected Gershkovich’s appeal, meaning he will remain jailed until Nov. 30.
Before the session was closed, Gershkovich appeared in the glass defendants’ cage, smiling at journalists and wearing a yellow sweater and blue jeans. He was detained in March while on a reporting trip to the city of Yekaterinburg, about 2,000 kilometers (1,200 miles) east of Moscow.
The court proceedings are closed because prosecutors say details of the criminal case are classified. Gershkovich last appeared in court in August when a judge ruled he must stay in jail until the end of November. Gershkovich was appealing that decision on Tuesday.
U.S. Ambassador to Russia Lynne Tracy made her fourth visit to Gershkovich on Friday, two days after the reporter’s parents appeared at U.N. headquarters and called on world leaders to urge Russia to free him. Tracy said later that Gershkovich “remains strong and is keeping up with the news,” including his parents’ appeal.
Russia’s Federal Security Service alleged Gershkovich, “acting on the instructions of the American side, collected information constituting a state secret about the activities of one of the enterprises of the Russian military-industrial complex.”
Gershkovich and the Journal deny the allegations, and the U.S. government declared him to be wrongfully detained. Russian authorities haven’t detailed any evidence to support the espionage charges.
He is being held at Moscow’s Lefortovo prison, notorious for its harsh conditions.
Gershkovich is the first American reporter to face espionage charges in Russia since 1986, when Nicholas Daniloff, a Moscow correspondent for U.S. News and World Report, was arrested by the KGB.
Analysts have pointed out that Moscow may be using jailed Americans as bargaining chips after U.S.-Russian tensions soared when Russia sent troops into Ukraine. At least two U.S. citizens arrested in Russia in recent years — including WNBA star Brittney Griner — have been exchanged for Russians jailed in the U.S.
The Russian Foreign Ministry has said it would consider a swap for Gershkovich only after a verdict in his trial. In Russia, espionage trials can last for more than a year.