Montenegro Postpones Extradition Of South Korean 'Cryptocurrency King'

Montenegro Postpones Extradition Of South Korean 'Cryptocurrency King'

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WASHINGTON – The U.S.-based team working to secure the release of American journalist Evan Gershkovich from a Russian prison views the approaching anniversary of his detention with a mix of hope and frustration as the ordeal approaches its second anus.

Gershkovich, 32, will complete one year of detention in Russia on March 29. On that day in 2023, the Wall Street Journal reporter was arrested in Yekaterinburg for alleged espionage that he, his newspaper and the US government deny. Since then he has been held in Moscow's Lefortovo prison.

The anniversary will be an opportunity to ramp up efforts to secure his release, said Paul Beckett, the newspaper's assistant editor, who spoke March 21 at a briefing in Washington to raise awareness about the anniversary and discuss the status of his case.

Beckett and other members of Gershkovich's team said that although the anniversary was frustrating, they are determined to redouble their efforts to bring Gershkovich home.

“Everything we've done hasn't paid the dividend we need yet,” Beckett said.

“We really need to redouble our efforts and do it with an even greater sense of urgency to make sure this can end as soon as possible.”

Jason Conti, a lawyer for the newspaper, said the team is anticipating scheduling a hearing that, under Russian law, must take place before the anniversary.

The team, which includes Gershkovich's sister, Danielle Gershkovich, and her parents, will know if prosecutors request an extension of up to six months or announce they are ready to begin trial.

If it is the latter, Gershkovich will be transferred from Moscow to Yekaterinburg for what would be a secret trial behind closed doors, Conti said.

Whatever the outcome of the hearing, Conti said that “no one believes that the legal route is the way to free Evan” because the conviction rate in Russia is more than 99 percent.

Conti said there has been a lot of activity behind the scenes on the diplomatic front, while publicly, Gershkovich's case has been raised directly with President Vladimir Putin in recent weeks, notably by American commentator Tucker Carlson in an interview in February.

Putin told Carlson that a deal could be reached involving a trade for a Russian national currently imprisoned in Germany, which was believed to be a reference to Vadim Krasikov, who is serving time for murder in Berlin.

Conti said the comment indicated “an expressed willingness to do some kind of business” but on the other hand created a “despicable” scenario in which an honest journalist must be treated by a convicted criminal.

The process of “trading with human beings” is a difficult business, Conti said, but “that's where we are.”

The panel also raised the detention of RFE/RL journalist Alsou Kurmasheva, who has American and Russian citizenship and is in pretrial detention in Russia accused of violating the so-called “foreign agents” law. The US government and RFE/RL say the charge is retaliation for her work.

Kurmasheva, who has worked for RFE/RL's Tatar-Bashkir Service for about 25 years, left Prague, where she lives, in mid-May due to a family emergency in her native Tatarstan, one of Russia's many republics.

She was briefly detained while waiting for her return flight on June 2, 2023 at Kazan airport, where both her passport and phone were confiscated. After five months waiting for a decision in her case, Kurmasheva was fined 10,000 rubles ($109) for failing to register her U.S. passport with Russian authorities.

Unable to leave Russia without her travel documents, Kurmasheva was detained again in October and this time charged with failing to register as a foreign agent. Two months later, she was accused of spreading falsehoods about the Russian military. If she is tried and found guilty, Kurmasheva could face up to 10 years in prison.

Unlike Gershkovich, Kurmasheva has not been designated as wrongfully detained, which would mean her case would be assigned to the Office of the Special Envoy for Hostage Affairs at the State Department, raising the political profile of her situation and allowing the administration Biden allocate more resources to secure his release.

Gershkovich was recognized as unjustly detained less than two weeks after his arrest. Kurmasheva, who was arrested at a Russian airport on October 18 as she returned home from a visit to her sick mother, has spent months in detention without her designation.

Beckett said it was a technical designation for the State Department to decide, but added that it would be a “significant step for anyone who is being held hostage like Alsou.” Only the State Department can answer why it is taking longer in her case, she added.

The one-year anniversary of Gershkovich's arrest will be marked next week with a 24-hour reading of his work by his Wall Street Journal colleagues at the newspaper's New York headquarters and swimming events at Brighton Beaches in New Zealand. South Africa. Canada, the United States and Great Britain.

The beaches were chosen in recognition of his family's connection to Brighton Beach in Brooklyn, New York, which is home to a large community of Russian immigrants. Gershkovich's parents emigrated from the Soviet Union, separately, in 1979.

Beckett encourages people to use social media to share posts about their participation in #IstandwithEvan events to raise even more awareness about Gershkovich's case.

Danielle Gershkovich said she keeps a positive attitude by exchanging letters with her brother weekly and remembering that he has maintained a sense of humor, remembering his smiles during his court appearances.

She said she and her parents, Ella and Mikhail Gershkovich, have been able to support each other as they face their fears and advocate for his release.

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