This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.
The Moscow City Court has refused to consider a request filed by former U.S. Marine Paul Whelan, who was convicted in Russia on espionage charges that he denies, to transfer him home to serve the remainder of his sentence there.
Whelan’s lawyers, Olga Karlova and Vladimir Zherebenkov, said on August 26 that the court informed them that their client’s request must be heard by the Supreme Court of the Republic of Mordovia, where Whelan is currently serving his term.
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.”
A holder of U.S., Canadian, British, and Irish passports, Whelan has rejected the espionage charges and has accused his prison guards of mistreatment.
The United States has criticized the Russian authorities for their “shameful treatment” of Whelan.
Whelan 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.
He is one of several Americans 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 2020 on charges of assaulting two Russian police officers.
The U.S. government and Reed deny the allegations and questioned the fairness of his judicial proceedings.
Reports have surfaced several times of a possible swap involving Whelan, Reed, and two Russians — arms dealer Viktor Bout and drug smuggler Konstantin Yaroshenko — who are serving lengthy sentences in U.S. prisons.
Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Yevgeny Ivanov said on August 25 that Washington’s unspecified “unconstructive” position makes a prisoner swap unlikely.