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US Paul Whelan convicted of espionage by Russia as he bags16 years in prison


Paul Whelan, former U.S. Marine was sentenced to 16 years of hard labor in a Russian prison for espionage yesterday. This comes as conclusion to a case that has added tension to already strained relations between the United States and Russia.
50 years old Paul Whelan said throughout the trial that he was framed. His attorney, Vladimir Zherebenkov, said his client was unwittingly handed a flash drive containing “state secrets” while visiting Russia for a wedding in late 2018. Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Whelan was caught red-handed. Whelan has said that he plans to appeal the court’s decision because the flash drive that he received from an acquaintance contained holiday photos.

Whelan, who also has Canadian, Irish and British citizenship, was the corporate security director at BorgWarner, a Michigan-based automotive parts supplier, at the time of his arrest. He received a bad-conduct discharge from the Marines in 2008, according to military records.

“I need the president of the United States and the prime ministers of Canada, Ireland and England to act decisively to end this political charade,” Whelan said in the courtroom Monday.
With Paul Whelan’s conviction, speculation is rife about a possible prisoner exchange with the United States. Zherebenkov said that that Paul expected this decision because even when he was detained, he was told by Russian security service agents] that he would be exchanged. Without revealing his source, Zherebenkov opined that he has been informed that Konstantin Yaroshenko, a pilot who was arrested in 2010 for conspiracy to smuggle cocaine into the United States, and Viktor Bout, a gun runner who inspired the 2005 Hollywood film “Lord of War,” are the possible focus of trades for Whelan’s release.


The U.S. Embassy has repeatedly condemned what it called the prosecution’s lack of evidence and described Whelan’s treatment as “shameful.” He was not permitted to phone his family until 16 months into his detainment, and the embassy said he did not have access to English-speaking doctors for a preexisting inguinal hernia.
After experiencing “severe abdominal pain” late last month, Whelan had an “emergency hernia operation” at a Moscow hospital, “Thank God it was a success” Whelan’s twin brother, David Whelan, said in an email.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement that “the treatment of Paul Whelan at the hands of Russian authorities has been appalling.”
“The United States is outraged by the decision of a Russian court today to convict U.S. citizen Paul Whelan after a secret trial, with secret evidence, and without appropriate allowances for defense witnesses,” the statement said. “We have serious concerns that Mr. Whelan was deprived of the fair trial guarantees that Russia is required to provide him in accordance with its international human rights obligations.”