In Russia, American former Marine Paul Whelan was sentenced to 16 years in prison for espionage. He had been detained since December 2018 when he was arrested in a Moscow hotel.
According to the Russian government, Whelan (50) was caught in the hotel room with a USB stick with secret information. The American, who also has a British, Canadian and Irish passport, says he was framed. He said he had received a data medium from a Russian acquaintance, and thought that it contained holiday photos.
Whelan’s lawyer and family say Russia wants to use high prison terms as a medium of exchange. Whelan could eventually be released as part of a prisoner exchange with the United States.
Whelan said after the statement that he had ended up in a “political theatre” and that he could not have heard a word of what was being said because everything was in Russian. The US embassy has also condemned the trial as unfair; according to the Americans, there is no evidence against Whelan.
Whelan’s lawyer told The New York Times before the verdict that his client knew dozens of people in Russia and none of them said Whelan recruited them to participate in espionage. The whole thing would be a provocation from Moscow.
Russian prosecutors had demanded 18 years in prison at the end of last month.