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Jewish Federation Is Urging The U.S. Government To Fight For Evan Gershkovich’s Release

Gershkovich is being held Russia on an espionage charge where the U.S. authorities have labeled him wrongfully detained.

The Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA) hosted a webinar on Monday that drew 500 people and has sent a letter to U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken advocating for the release of Evan Gershkovich, a Wall Street Journal foreign correspondent who has been incarcerated in Russia. 

Accused of espionage while working in the country, Gershkovich has been held by Russia’s Federal Security Service since March. 

US journalist Evan Gershkovich, arrested on espionage charges, stands inside a defendants’ cage before a hearing to consider an appeal on his arrest at the Moscow City Court in Moscow on April 18, 2023. NATALIA KOLESNIKOVA/JNS

Gershkovich is currently facing 20 years behind bars in Russia. Though, U.S. authorities have labeled his arrest as wrongfully detained. He is currently not the American Russia is holding as a prisoner.

Paul Whalen, a U.S. Marine, was convicted on espionage and is currently serving a 16-year-sentence.

He is the first journalist to face such a charge since the end of the Cold War. In its letter, JFNA wrote: “Evan and his family are members of our American Jewish community. We are very concerned about Evan’s well-being, particularly given the record of Russian detention of Americans in various cases for months and years.” 

Among those in government supporting Gershkovich is Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) who participated in the webinar. 

“I know how ruthless and brutal [Russian President Vladmir] Putin’s regime is, and so do Evan’s parents,” he said. 

Others who spoke out on the webinar include Jodie Ginsberg, CEO of the Committee to Protect Journalists, and Paul Beckett, the Wall Street Journal’s Washington bureau chief. 

“Russia has no grounds to hold Evan Gershkovich prisoner; he’s an innocent American journalist,” Bi-partisan lawmakers said in a statement. “We are proud to introduce this resolution calling on the Russian government to release Evan and other wrongfully detained Americans immediately and return them to their families.”

Beckett emphasized that Russia pays attention to the reactions of Jews around the world and that speaking up for Gershkovich could “make a difference.”

Previously, the U.S. and Russian governments did a prisoner swap that included WNBA basketball star Brittney Griner and Russian armed services dealer Viktor Bout.

Griner was detained in Russia where she was detained for months for drug smuggling charges that involve vaporized cartridges that contained less than a gram of hash oil.

Bout was arrested during a DEA operation as cover operation where an informant, claimed to be a rebel of the FARC, negotiated with him on an arms deal. He was arrested in Thailand in 2008 where he was extradited to the United States.

Former zookeeper, Joe Exotic, slammed President Joe Biden for the prisoner swipe.

“President Biden slapped every American in the face that is stuck in the American Justice system with this one by swapping Brittney Griner with Viktor Bout. She admitted to flying internationally with THC oil or hash oil,” Exotic said about the prisoner swap. “Brittney Griner should have faced Federal Charges for transporting hash oil across state lines, as well; instead she got, not only a free ticket, but she faced being charged, convicted, sentenced, appealed and traded for all in only 10 months in the Russia System.”

Produced in association with Jewish News Syndicate

Edited by Alberto Arellano and Virginia Van Zandt

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