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Russia will hold Evan Gershkovich’s espionage trial behind closed doors, state media reports

American journalist Evan Gershkovich will stand trial behind closed doors in the Russian city of Yekaterinburg starting on June 26, state-run news agency TASS reported Monday, citing the court’s press service.

Gershkovich, 32, has been imprisoned since he was arrested while on a reporting trip in March last year by the FSB, Russia’s federal security service, which accused him of trying to obtain state secrets. Gershkovich, the US government and his employer, the Wall Street Journal, have vehemently denied the charges against him.

The Russian Prosecutor General’s office said last Thursday it had approved the indictment and referred Gershkovich’s case to a trial court. If convicted, he faces up to 20 years in prison.

The case will be heard in the Sverdlovsk Regional Court, TASS reported Monday.

For more than a year since his arrest, Gershkovich has been imprisoned in Moscow’s notorious Lefortovo Prison, and his pre-trial detention period had been extended numerous times. The trial venue of Yekaterinburg is more than 1,100 miles east of the capital.

Last week, Russian prosecutors said the FSB had “established and documented” that Gershkovich was acting on CIA instructions in the month he was arrested, alleging he had “collected secret information” about a Russian tank factory.

“Gershkovich carried out the illegal actions using painstaking conspiratorial methods,” it said in a statement.

Gershkovich’s detention has been a source of tension between Washington and Moscow, whose relations were already deeply strained due to Russia’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine.

The White House has previously alleged the Kremlin is using Gershkovich, the first American reporter detained in Russia on allegations of spying since the Cold War, as a geopolitical hostage.

On Thursday, US State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller said the allegations against Gershkovich have “absolutely zero credibility.”

“We have been clear from the start that Evan has done nothing wrong. He should never have been arrested in the first place. Journalism is not a crime. The charges against him are false, and the Russian government knows that they’re false. He should be released immediately,” Miller said at a State Department briefing.

Gershkovich is among a number of Americans being held in Russia, including former Marine Paul Whelan, whom the US State Department has also declared as wrongfully detained.

The US has repeatedly warned American citizens not to travel to Russia.

This post appeared first on cnn.com

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