YEKATERINBURG, Russia (NEWSnet/AP) — Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich went on trial in Russia on Wednesday, spinning out of his arrest in the Russian city on espionage charges that he, his employer and the U.S. government vehemently deny.

The 32-year-old journalist appeared in the Yekaterinburg court in a glass defendants’ cage, his head shaved and wearing a black-and-blue plaid shirt.

A yellow padlock was attached to the cage.

Journalists were allowed into the courtroom for a few minutes before the proceedings were closed. Also briefly permitted in court were two consular officers from the U.S. Embassy in Moscow, according to the embassy.

The hearing ended after about two hours, and the next one was scheduled for Aug. 13, court officials said.

Jay Conti, executive vice president and general counsel for Dow Jones, publisher of the Journal, described the trial as a sham in an interview with The Associated Press.

Authorities arrested Gershkovich when he was on a reporting trip to Yekaterinburg, in the Ural Mountains, and claimed he was gathering secret information for the U.S. The State Department has declared him “wrongfully detained,” thereby committing the government to assertively seek his release.

The Journal has worked to keep the case in the headlines and public’s attention.

After his arrest on March 29, 2023, Gershkovich was held in Moscow’s Lefortovo Prison. He has appeared healthy during court hearings in which his appeals for release have been rejected.

Gershkovich faces up to 20 years in prison if the court finds him guilty, which is almost certain. Russian courts convict more than 99% of the defendants who come before them.

With Gershkovich’s trial being closed, few details of his case may become public. But the Russian Prosecutor General’s office said this month that he is accused of “gathering secret information” on orders from the CIA about Uralvagonzavod, a plant about 90 miles north of Yekaterinburg that produces and repairs tanks and other military equipment.

Russia has not ruled out a prisoner exchange involving Gershkovich but says that’s not possible before a verdict in his case.

That could be months away, because Russian trials often adjourn for weeks.

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