Sunday. 05.02.2023

Russian court sentences US national to 16 years for espionage

Paul Whelan, a former US marine, was accused of having obtained classified Russian state information.
St. Basil's Cathedral (l), the Lenin mausoleum and the Spassky Tower of the Kremlin on Red Square. Photo: Ulf Mauder/dpa
St. Basil's Cathedral (l), the Lenin mausoleum and the Spassky Tower of the Kremlin on Red Square. Photo: Ulf Mauder/dpa.

A Russian court sentenced US national Paul Whelan to 16 years in prison for espionage on Monday, state media reported.

Whelan, a former US marine, was accused of having obtained classified Russian state information, the nature of which has not been disclosed.

US Ambassador John Sullivan described it as a "secret trial in which no evidence was produced," according to a statement released by the US embassy.

Sullivan, present at the courthouse in Moscow, condemned the proceedings as an "egregious violation of human rights and international legal norms," the statement said.

"The United States demands that US citizen Paul Whelan be released immediately. His conviction is a mockery of justice. The world is watching," Sullivan said in the statement.FILE PHOTO: Former U.S. Marine Paul Whelan, who was detained and accused of espionage, stands inside a defendants' cage during a court hearing on extending his pre-trial detention, in Moscow, Russia October 24, 2019. REUTERS/Tatyana Makeyeva/File PhotoPaul Whelan inside a defendants' cage in Moscow. Photo: Reuters/Tatyana Makeyeva.

Whelan, 50, has been in Russian custody for the past year and a half after being detained in Moscow in December 2018. He underwent surgery two weeks ago for an abdominal hernia, state media reported.

The US embassy said it was an "emergency surgery," performed because the condition had become "life-threatening."

Documents confiscated

A flash drive and documents were confiscated from Whelan while he was detained on a trip to Moscow. No further details about the evidence have been revealed.

Whelan has insisted that he is innocent. His family has said he was visiting Russia to attend a wedding. His legal team vowed to appeal Monday's verdict, state media reported.

Whelan, born in Canada to British parents, is also a citizen of Canada, Britain and Ireland. He was employed by US auto parts supplier BorgWarner when he was detained.

Russian court sentences US national to 16 years for espionage
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