U.S. reporter Gershkovich to appeal against arrest and detention in Russian jail

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MOSCOW - Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich will appeal on Tuesday against his arrest and detention in Moscow's most notorious former KGB prison on charges of espionage, according to court documents.

Russia's Federal Security Service (FSB) said on March 30 it had detained Gershkovich in the Urals city of Yekaterinburg and had opened an espionage case against him for collecting what it said were state secrets about the military industrial complex.

Gershkovich, the first American journalist detained in Russia on espionage charges since the end of the Cold War, and the Journal have denied he was involved in espionage, as has the United States.

According to a public Russian judicial document, Lefortovo District Court will hear on Tuesday a complaint filed by Gershkovich against the decision to keep him in custody in Lefortovo prison while the case is being investigated.

The court documents gave nothing more than basic details about the case. The court said it was forbidden to publish some of the documents in the case. A Russian lawyer for Gershkovich did not respond to a request for comment.

The hearing is essentially procedural - about how Gershkovich should be detained as he awaits trial, not about the substance of the charges as investigators are still working on the details of the case.

Gershkovich, the American son of Soviet-born Jews who fled to the West in 1979, was detained by Russia's FSB on March 29 shortly after he arrived at a steakhouse in Yekaterinburg during his second trip to the Urals in a month.

He was moved to the Lefortovo prison, which in Soviet times was run by the KGB but is now operated by the Federal Penitentiary Service. Traditionally it has been used to hold those suspected by the FSB of spying and other grave crimes.

The Kremlin has said Gershkovich was carrying out espionage "under the cover" of journalism. Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has told the United States that Gershkovich was caught red-handed while trying to obtain secrets.

Last Monday, the United States determined that Russia had "wrongfully detained" Gershkovich, effectively saying that the espionage charges were bogus and that the case was political.

A spokesperson for The Wall Street Journal did not immediately respond on Monday to a request for comment.

(Reporting by Guy Faulconbridge; Editing by Gareth Jones)

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