The family of US reporter Evan Gershkovich appealed to world leaders on Wednesday to press Russia for his release from prison.
The request comes ahead of the UN General Assembly next week, when leaders and top officials from around the world will gather in New York.
“We urge all world leaders to stand with Evan and what he represents: the basic right to a free press and freedom of expression. These rights are bedrock principles of the United Nations,” Mikhail Gershkovich, the journalist's father, told reporters.
Gershkovich, a 31-year-old US citizen, was arrested by Russia’s Federal Security Service during a reporting trip to the country in March.
He has been accused of spying – charges both he and The Wall Street Journal flatly deny.
“We know he's strong but the past several months have been a nightmare for our family. It has also been trying for Evan's many friends and colleagues. We hate to think of whatever is going through simply for doing his job,” said the elder Mr Gershkovich.
“We just want him home.”
The Wall Street Journal's parent company on Tuesday requested that a panel of UN experts declare Gershkovich as being “arbitrarily detained”.
“The lawyers have filed a petition asking the United Nations to declare that Russia's imprisonment of Evan is wrong and unlawful. We hope this will help bring Evan home sooner,” his father said.
Mariana Katzarova, the UN’s special rapporteur on human rights in Russia who was part of a panel on Tuesday discussing Gershkovich’s case, said she plans to present a report to the Human Rights Council later this month that will include a call to release him and any other journalists or human rights defenders who have been arbitrarily detained in the country.
US ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield, who accompanied the family, condemned Gershkovich’s detention and accused Russia of exploiting the American journalist for its own purposes.
“No family should have to watch their loved one being used as a pawn. And that's exactly what President [Vladimir] Putin is doing,” she asserted, emphasising that Russia's actions are “beyond cruel” and a breach of international law.
Ms Thomas-Greenfield also demanded the release of Paul Whelan, who is also being held on charges of spying, and said Washington will not rest until “Evan and Paul, and all wrongfully detained Americans, are home, safe and sound”.