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Jailed US Marine veteran Whelan placed in ‘punitive isolation cell’ in notorious Russian prison

Paul Whelan imprisoned in Russia (U.S. Embassy & Consulates in Russia/WikiCommons)

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

U.S. Marine veteran Paul Whelan, convicted last year in Russia on espionage charges he denies, has been placed in solitary confinement in a remote prison for an unknown violation of the penitentiary’s regulations..

Whelan’s lawyer Vladimir Zherebenkov said late on July 29 that the correctional colony’s authorities told him by phone that Whelan is in what Russia’s penitentiary system calls a “punitive isolation cell” where he was placed for a violation of internal rules.

Whelan’s other lawyer, Olga Karlova, said that his brother David confirmed to her that Whelan was in solitary confinement.

David Whelan told the Interfax news agency that it was the second time since early July that his brother had been placed in a punitive isolation cell.

According to David Whelan, his brother had just served 15 days in solitary confinement for unknown reasons just before his current stint in isolation began.

Whelan was arrested in Moscow in December 2018 on espionage charges and sentenced to 16 years in prison in May 2020 following a trial that was condemned by the United States as a “mockery of justice.”

The 51-year-old is serving his sentence at Correctional Colony No. 17 in the region of Mordovia — an area about 350 kilometers east of Moscow historically known as the location of Russia’s toughest prisons, including Soviet-era labor camps for political prisoners.

He has rejected the espionage charges and has accused his prison guards of mistreatment.

The United States has criticized Russian authorities for their “shameful treatment” of Whelan.

Whelan holds U.S., Canadian, British, and Irish passports. He was head of global security at a U.S. auto-parts supplier when he was arrested. He and his relatives insist he visited Russia to attend a wedding.

Whelan is one of several American citizens to face trial in Russia in recent years on charges that their families, supporters, and in some cases the U.S. government, have said are trumped up.

Another former U.S. Marine, Trevor Reed, is serving a nine-year prison term in Mordovia as well. He was sentenced in July last year on charge of assaulting two Russian police officers.

The U.S. government and Reed deny the allegations and questioned the fairness of his judicial proceedings.