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American held in Russia on espionage charge appeals extension of pretrial detention

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)
September 04, 2019

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

Lawyers for Paul Whelan, a U.S. citizen charged in Russia with espionage, have appealed a court’s decision to prolong his pretrial detention until October 29.

Lawyer Vladimir Zherebenkov told Interfax news agency on September 2 that the defense team had demanded the Moscow City Court transfer Whelan to house arrest.

The court’s spokeswoman, Ksenia Pervovlasenko, told the agency that no date had been set yet for the hearing.

Whelan’s pretrial detention was extended on August 23.

Whelan, a former U.S. Marine who also holds Canadian, Irish, and British citizenship, told reporters at the hearing that he had been abused by prison guards during his incarceration.

He felt unwell during the session and an ambulance was dispatched to the court, but paramedics refused to take Whelan to the hospital after examining him.

The 49-year-old was arrested in a hotel room in Moscow in December 2018 and accused of receiving classified information.

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

Whelan in the past has complained of poor conditions in prison and of abuse and Zherebenkov has said that his client needs surgery.

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

In April, the embassy called on Russia to “stop playing games” and provide proof of Whelan’s alleged espionage.