Russia incarcerates ex-US marine Paul Whelan over spying charges

Paul Whelan, an ex-US marine

Paul Whelan, an ex-US marine, was arrested 18 months ago in a hotel room in Mexico with a USB drive in his possession, which according to security officers contained state secrets.

He has been sentenced for 16 years’ of hard labour in Russia against spying charges, after Moscow City Court found him guilty of possessing classified information.

Post the decision, Whelan, who is also a citizen of UK, Canada and Ireland, has condemned the allegations and the closed trial as a complete “sham”.

John Sullivan, US Ambassador to Moscow also denounced the trial citing it as unfair and lacking transparency and fair judgement. He further said that this case can have a negative impact on US – Russia relations.

Embassy spokeswoman said, “This secret trial in which no evidence was produced is an egregious violation of human rights and international legal norms.”

Paul Whelan – The man, the story:

Paul Whelan, 50, hails from Novi, Michigan. He was born in Canada to British parents and later moved to US. He holds citizenship of four countries – U.S., Canada, UK and Ireland.

He joined US Marine Reserves in 1994. Before that he worked as a police officer in Michigan for six years.

Whelan completed two tours in Iraq in 2004 and 2006. While in marines, he visited Russia on many occasions.

It was in December 2018 when he was arrested from his hotel room in central Moscow, while he was getting ready to attend a wedding. Whelan reports that soon after a friend came to room unexpectedly, security officers barged in and arrested him for having state secrets.

In a statement post the verdict his family said, “The court’s decision merely completes the final piece of this broken judicial process. We had hoped that the court might show some independence but, in the end, Russian judges are political, not legal entities.”

Whelan’s lawyers are said to lodge an appeal in two weeks. The family also called on the US President and government to take steps to bring Paul Whelan home immediately.

The trial:

It was a closed trial with no media allowed on the Monday hearing, probably as a precaution to coronavirus. Whelan was not allowed to speak to media and could not tell his part of story or raise his voice. To counter it, he had a hand-written note stuck to his glass of his cage, saying it was a “sham”. Two black masked FSBs (Russia’s Federal Security Service) guarded his cage, as Whelan denounced his charges as being fabricated, ridiculous and with a political aim.

The verdict was already declared “pre-ordained” and when finally it was announced, nobody translated it.

Paul Whelan was left shrugging and appealing the judges to tell him the decision “po angliisky” (in English), but no one bothered and the panel of three judges left the room ignoring him.

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