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Russian court extends detention of US citizen Whelan despite claims of abuse by guards

Then-Staff Sgt. Paul N. Whelan, adjutant, Marine Air Control Group 38 (Reinforced), 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing (Forward), pictured before the Kremlin in 2007. (Cpl. James B. Hoke/U.S. Marine Corps)

This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.

A Russian court has extended the detention of Paul Whalen, a U.S. citizen and former U.S. Marine, until October 29 as he awaits trial on espionage charges that he denies.

Whelan, who also holds Canadian, Irish, and British citizenship, told reporters from a cage at a Moscow court hearing on August 23 that he had been abused by prison guards during his incarceration.

Judge Yelena Kaneva, however, ordered the extension to give investigators time to complete their inquiry and decide whether to refer the case to the court.

“I was injured in the prison…the prison doesn’t want to tell you,” Whelan said.

The 49-year-old was arrested in a hotel room in Moscow in December and accused of receiving classified information.

He was charged with espionage, which carries up to 20 years in prison. Whelan’s family said he was in Moscow at the time for a wedding.

Escorted by security guards wearing black masks, Whelan arrived in court on August 23 handcuffed.

“I am standing here in great pain due to an injury sustained in the prison by the prison guards,” he said.

An ambulance was later dispatched to the court, but paramedics refused to take Whelan to hospital after examining him, Interfax reported.

“There is no need for hospitalization,” an unnamed paramedic was quoted as saying by the Russian news agency.

Whelan in the past has complained of poor conditions in prison and of abuse.

The U.S. Embassy in Moscow on July 1 said its request for an independent medical examination of Whelan had been denied, noting his condition had deteriorated.

In April, the U.S. Embassy told Russia to “stop playing games” and provide proof of Whelan’s alleged espionage.

Embassy spokeswoman Andrea Kalan asked on social media on April 30 “why haven’t Russian officials provided proof?” of Whelan’s alleged spying and added that there’s a “complete lack of evidence” in his case.

Kalan’s comments came after Whelan was visited in Moscow’s Lefortovo prison by U.S. Ambassador Jon Huntsman.

During an earlier hearing, Whelan made a direct appeal to U.S. President Donald Trump.

“Mr. President — we cannot keep America great unless we aggressively protect and defend citizens wherever they are in the world,” he said.