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Former US Marine accused of espionage tells Moscow court his health condition is deteriorating

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.

Former U.S. Marine Paul Whelan has asked the Moscow court trying him on espionage charges to allow a doctor from the American Embassy to examine him at his detention facility, saying his groin hernia had worsened, according to his lawyer.

Interfax quoted defense lawyer Vladimir Zherebenkov as saying Whelan made the request as his trial resumed at the Moscow City Court on April 13 following a delay of two weeks.

The court will announce a decision on the request at the next hearing scheduled for April 20, according to Zherebenkov, who said Whelan “finds it difficult to get up.”

U.S. Ambassador to Russia John Sullivan said April 13 that he tried to enter the courthouse before Whelan’s hearing but was denied entry.

“Paul continues to endure complicated medical issues that are potentially life threatening and require treatment. We have repeatedly asked for our doctors to visit Paul but have been met with only denials,” Sullivan said in a statement. “I remain concerned about Paul’s health and welfare; he needs medical care and he needs to go home.”

Whelan, who holds U.S., British, Canadian, and Irish passports, was arrested in a hotel room in Moscow in December 2018 and is accused of receiving classified information.

He was charged with espionage, which carries a sentence of up to 20 years in prison.

Whelan denies the charges and says he was framed. His family said he was in Moscow for a wedding at the time of his arrest.

U.S. officials have urged Moscow to release Whelan and criticized the Russian authorities for their “shameful treatment” of him.

“The entire case against Paul — the circumstances of his arrest, total lack of evidence, and ongoing imprisonment — is not only morally wrong and legally suspect but represents a significant obstacle in the U.S.-Russia bilateral relationship,” Ambassador Sullivan said in the April 13 statement.

Whelan’s brother, David Whelan, has said that U.S. Embassy officials have been barred from visiting him at Moscow’s Lefortovo detention center due to what Russian authorities claimed were concerns about the coronavirus pandemic.

Russian authorities have rejected allegations of ill-treatment.

During the April 13 hearing, the court read the indictment against Whelan, who called the case against him a “provocation” by the Federal Security Service, according to Zherebenkov.

His trial was delayed because of what authorities said were “restrictions imposed over the coronavirus.”

Russian courts have suspended many court proceedings over the coronavirus outbreak and banned the public from the hearings.

At a March 23 hearing, the Moscow City Court extended Whelan’s detention until September 13.