On March 29, Gershkovich was arrested by the Federal Security Service while reporting in the city of Yekaterinburg. The FSB alleged that he was guilty of espionage, but he, the WSJ, and the United States government have claimed that the charges are fake and Gershkovich has done nothing wrong.
In April, the U.S. government determined that he is being wrongfully detained, a legal designation determined by top State Department officials, based on criteria laid out in the Levinson Act.
This means that his case is under the purview of the Special Presidential Envoy for Hostage Affairs and shows that the U.S. government does not believe Gershkovich is a legitimate detainee but is a political prisoner.
“It’s difficult to believe that it’s been six months since Evan was wrongfully imprisoned and almost a year since we were all together as a family,” the Gershkovich family said in a statement on Friday. “It’s hard not to think about everything he is missing: close friends’ weddings, holidays with family, his 32nd birthday, and the job he loves. We miss him terribly and today is another reminder that every day is a day too long without his freedom.”
Gershkovich currently sits imprisoned in Moscow’s notorious Lefortovo prison. If convicted, he faces up to 20 years in prison.
“The U.S. position remains unwavering. The charges against Evan are baseless. The Russian government locked Evan up for simply doing his job. Journalism is not a crime,” U.S. ambassador to Russia Lynne Tracy said to reporters earlier this month.
The Biden administration has made efforts to secure Gershkovich’s release, as well as the release of Paul Whelan, an American businessman and former United States Marine, who is serving a 16-year prison sentence on espionage charges that both he and the U.S. government have said are falsified.
The Biden administration went through with two separate prisoner swaps with Russia last year, trading two convicted Russians in each of those deals. The government swapped Trevor Reed, a marine who was later injured after joining the fighting in Ukraine, for pilot Konstantin Yaroshenko and famously swapped WNBA star Brittney Griner for notorious arms dealer Viktor Bout, a move that was hugely controversial for numerous reasons.
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