Russian court will consider a request to transfer ex-US Marine Paul Whelan, 50, to America after he was jailed for 16 years in a high security prison for spying
- Paul Whelan, 50, was jailed in June 2020 for allegedly stealing state secrets
- He claimed it was a ‘sham trial’ amid outcry in Washington at lack of evidence
- Whelan’s lawyer says a hearing will take place in Nizhny Novgorod on Nov. 8
A Russian court will consider a request to transfer an ex-US Marine to America after he was jailed for 16 years for ‘spying.’
A lawyer for Paul Whelan, 50, said the hearing will take place in the city of Nizhny Novgorod on November 8.
Whelan, who holds American, British, Canadian and Irish passports, was jailed in June 2020 for allegedly stealing state secrets amid outcry in Washington after a closed-door trial with scant evidence produced in court.
He held up a sign saying ‘Sham trial!’ and ‘Paul’s life matters’ as he was sentenced in Moscow.
The Kremlin claims Whelan was caught red-handed with a flash drive containing classified information, but throughout the trial he maintained his innocence, comparing himself to the hapless comedy character Mr Bean.
Paul Whelan held up a sign saying ‘Sham trial!’ and ‘Paul’s life matters’ as he was sentenced in Moscow in June, 2020
Whelan (pictured with a Labrador) publicly declared himself the victim of ‘an absurd political kidnapping’ and appealed to President Trump to help him and to ‘keep America great’ by taking steps to secure his release
Prosecutors accused Whelan of being at least a ranking U.S. military intelligence colonel.
In June 2019, Whelan publicly declared himself the victim of ‘an absurd political kidnapping’ and appealed to President Trump to help him and to ‘keep America great’ by taking steps to secure his release.
‘Mr. President, we cannot keep America great unless we aggressively protect and defend American citizens wherever they are in the world,’ he said. He also called the legal processes he experienced as the ‘Moscow goat rodeo’.
U.S. diplomats have described the case as a ‘significant obstacle’ to improving already poor bilateral ties and have repeatedly said there is no evidence against him and asked Russia to release him.
Whelan has maintained he was visiting Moscow for a friend’s wedding when he was arrested in his hotel room by Russia’s FSB security service in December 2018.
At the time he was working as a security director for the American auto parts supplier BorgWarner but had previously served in the Marines, which he left on a bad-conduct discharge in 2007.
The case has been shrouded in secrecy with Russia not publicly saying what Whelan has been accused of.
However, details of the case have emerged through Whelan’s lawyer and through the Russian media.
According to reports, he is accused of stealing state secrets to pass back to Washington.
Whelan has protested his innocence and his lawyers have said he was framed by a friend of 10 years who works for the FSB.
The friend allegedly visited him in his hotel room and gave him a memory card that he thought contained photos of a recent vacation together.
The drive actually contained classified materials and moments later the FSB raided the room and arrested Whelan, his lawyers have said.
Whelan believes the friend set him up because he owed the ex-marine over $1,000 for two iPhones, Zherebenkov said.
Whelan (pictured in the Marines) said he was visiting Moscow for a friend’s wedding when he was arrested in his hotel room by Russia’s FSB security service in December 2018
The friend has not been named by Whelan’s lawyers but his family have identified the individual as a Russian agent called Ilya Yatsenko.
Russian newspaper Kommersant last month reported that Yatsenko works as a major in the powerful Department ‘K’ of the FSB and that the agent appeared in court twice during the trial.
Whelan, who travelled to Russia on vacation for many years, has urged the US government to step in with a prisoner swap.
Speculation has mounted that the US could exchange the former marine, who holds Irish, British and Canadian citizenship, for Russian pilot Konstantin Yaroshenko who is currently being held in the US on drug smuggling charges.
The US has made several calls for Moscow to release Whelan and blasted the nation for what it has described as Cold War-style tactics.