The United States on Monday determined that Russia had “wrongfully detained” Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich, and has pressed the Russia to “immediately release” the American journalist.
Russia formally charged Gershkovich with espionage “in the interests of his country” last week. The 32-year-old has reportedly denied all accusations.
Gershkovich was detained on suspicions of spying in the Ural Mountains of Yekaterinburg, the fourth-largest city in Russia, on March 29. He was taken to Moscow and will remain in detention until May 29 pending trial.
The Moscow City Court said Thursday that it would hear an appeal from Gershkovich’s lawyers on April 18. The court could decide to uphold detention, transfer him to another prison, allow him to undergo house arrest, or grant him bail.
Gershkovich is the first journalist to be arrested on espionage charges since the fall of the Soviet Union, according to the Moscow Times.
If convicted, he faces up to 20 years in jail.
In a rare joint statement, U.S. Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer and Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell called for the immediate release of Gershkovich, saying that Russian authorities had no grounds to arrest the American journalist.
“We strongly condemn the wrongful detention of U.S. citizen and Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich, and demand the immediate release of this internationally known and respected independent journalist,” they said.
“Russian authorities have failed to present any credible evidence to justify their fabricated charges,” the statement said.
The Senate leaders also accused Moscow of denying Gershkovich consular access, which goes against standard protocol and is likely a violation of international law.