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Moscow court upholds detention of US Marine vet accused of espionage

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 upheld a decision to keep former U.S. Marine Paul Whelan in detention until mid-September while his trial on espionage charges is ongoing.

A Moscow court of appeals “dismissed our appeal against the extension of the measure of restraint” on Whelan, his lawyer, Vladimir Zherebenkov, said on May 14.

On March 23, the Moscow City Court extended Whelan’s detention by six months, until September 13.

The 50-year-old Whelan, who also holds British, Canadian, and Irish citizenship, was arrested in Moscow in December 2018. Prosecutors claim that a flash disc in his possession contained classified information. He faces up to 20 years in prison if convicted.

Whelan denies the allegations against him, calling them political in nature, and has alleged being mistreated by guards. The former U.S. Marine has said he traveled to Moscow to attend a wedding.

The trial is being held behind closed doors because the evidence includes classified materials and because of measures taken to slow the spread of the coronavirus.