The brother of former U.S. Marine Paul Whelan, imprisoned in Russia on espionage charges he rejects, says his sibling is suffering sleep deprivation at a prison colony.
Paul Whelan complained that he was being woken up at approximately two-hour intervals every night over the past few weeks, his brother, David, said on November 5.
He said the practice apparently started because someone in the Russian prison system deemed his brother a flight risk.
"It is ridiculous to label someone like Paul -- a foreigner lacking in money and language skills, let alone family, and other connections in Russia -- a flight risk," Reuters quoted David Whelan as saying.
He said the U.S. Embassy in Moscow had protested to the Russian Foreign Ministry but not received a response.
Valery Krutov, chairman of Mordovia's Public Monitoring Commission, told Interfax that "no such information was voiced" when he asked about Whelan during a meeting with employees of Russia's Federal Penitentiary System three days earlier.
"Neither lawyers nor Whelan's relatives have sent us such papers. But we'll check the circumstances since such information has appeared in the media," Krutov said.
Whelan 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.
The 50-year-old Whelan was arrested in Moscow in December 2018 and sentenced to 16 years in prison on June 15 this year.
He has rejected the espionage charges and accused his prison guards of mistreatment.
The United States has called the proceedings a "mockery of justice" and 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.