The family of Evan Gershkovich, the Wall Street Journal reporter who has been detained in Russia since March, appealed on Wednesday for the United Nations’ help in bringing him home, urging world leaders who will soon be attending the U.N. General Assembly to join the call for his release.
“Next week, world leaders will gather here to discuss many important issues,” Mr. Gershkovich’s father, Mikhail, said at a briefing in New York alongside the American ambassador to the United Nations, Linda Thomas-Greenfield.
He called on those leaders to stand with his son, saying Evan Gershkovich represented “the basic right to free press and freedom of expression” and that “these rights are bedrock principles of the United Nations.”
The United States “will not rest until Evan and Paul and all wrongfully detained Americans are home safe and sound,” Ms. Thomas-Greenfield said, referring to Paul Whelan, a former Marine serving a 16-year sentence on what U.S. officials say are bogus espionage charges.
Mr. Whelan was able to have a consular visit on Wednesday with the U.S. ambassador to Russia, Lynne Tracy, the State Department spokesman Matthew Miller told reporters. “We believe Paul continues to show tremendous courage in the face of his wrongful detention,” Mr. Miller added.
Lawyers filed a petition on Tuesday asking a group of U.N. experts to side with the U.S. government and agree that Evan Gershkovich was being arbitrarily detained by Russia in violation of his human rights, the family said.
The petition was submitted to the U.N. Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, a panel of five human rights and international law experts. The group has previously evaluated the detentions of several journalists, including the Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian, who spent 544 days imprisoned in Iran before he was released in a prisoner swap in early 2016.
The U.N. group does not have any enforcement authority, but its determination that Mr. Gershkovich is being arbitrarily detained would further raise pressure on Russia, already isolated from the West, to free him.
Mr. Gershkovich is the first American journalist to be detained on accusations of spying in Russia since the end of the Cold War. The United States government considers him wrongfully detained, and along with The Journal, has categorically denied the accusations against him.
“If this can happen to my brother, it can happen to any journalist trying to report the news,” Mr. Gershkovich’s sister, Danielle Gershkovich, said at the briefing.
His mother, Ella Milman, said she missed her son every day, and that he had teased in letters that the food in the notorious Lefortovo prison where he is being held reminds him of her cooking. “We’re glad he’s kept his sense of humor,” she said.
Mr. Gershkovich’s pretrial detention will extend at least until Nov. 30, a Moscow court ruled last month after a secret proceeding that was closed to the news media.