Azerbaijan news

U.S. Urges Russia To Stop Using Wrongfully Jailed Americans As "Bargaining Chips"

The United States on Tuesday urged Russia to stop using its wrongfully jailed citizens as “bargaining chips” after a Moscow court extended by three months the pre-trial detention of journalist Evan Gershkovich, ahead of the anniversary of his arrest, TURAN’s Washington correspondent reports.

“We believe, as we have believed, that Russia should stop using individuals like Evan Gershkovich or Paul Whelan – who has been detained for five years – as bargaining chips.  They should be released immediately,” State Department’s Spokesperson Matthew Miller told TURAN’s correspondent during a daily briefing.

Russian authorities accused the Wall Street Journal reporter Gershkovich last March of “committing espionage” charges, which his colleagues have vehemently denied. The State Department has designated Gershkovich as “wrongfully detained.”

“At the hearing today Russian authorities did not provide any evidence of a crime,” Miller told TURAN’s correspondent.  “… They just extended his detention for another three months.  And despite their claims, they have provided no justification for holding him at all, and we believe there’s a simple reason for doing that, and it’s because he has done nothing wrong.  It’s because journalism is not a crime,” the spokesperson added.

The Washington-based National Press Club on Tuesday drew attention to the fact that under Russian law, prosecutors are allowed to extend detention beyond the normal limit of one year for “complex cases”—and only under rare occasions.  “Prosecutors initially asserted that Evan’s case was not complex at all, claiming obvious evidence against him. They’ve had opportunity in multiple court appearances, to show any evidence they claim to have. They have not put forward so much as a shred,”  the Club leadership said in a statement.

“Evan was innocent when arrested, is innocent today, and will be innocent in June. He will also be innocent at the end of any trial that may take place. There is simply no case against him,” the statement concludes.

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