A former US marine is serving 16 years in prison following a Russian Court order to slap him with charges of espionage.
Paul Whelan, 50, and a citizen of four countries such as the US, Canada, the UK and the Irish Republic, has been in Russian custody for over a year and a half after he was arrested at a hotel while in Moscow in December 2018.
Whelan said he was in Russia to attend a wedding when an old friend turned up unexpectedly followed by authorities who later arrested him.
A flash drive and documents were confiscated from him which authorities believed contained secrets, albeit no further details about the files were divulged.
The Moscow City Court found him guilty of receiving classified information.
Whelan and his family denounced the closed trial as a sham ahead of the verdict, saying the 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,” they said.
The family called on the United States to intervene and assist with Whelan’s release, adding that they will appeal against the verdict.
US Ambassador to Russia John Sullivan—who was present at the court— slammed the order, saying it was “based on a secret trial in which no evidence was produced” and an “egregious violation of human rights and international legal norms.”
US Secretary of State also denounced the move, saying in a statement that the US “is outraged by the decision of a Russian court to convict US citizen Paul Whelan after a secret trial, with secret evidence, and without appropriate allowances for defence witnesses.”
Whelan was employed by US automotive parts supplier BorgWarner when he was detained.
According to the state media, Whelan underwent surgery two weeks ago for an abdominal hernia. The US embassy said it was an emergency surgery, performed because the condition had become life-threatening.
PHOTO COURTESY: FLICKR