Accessibility links

Breaking News

Moscow Court Extends Pretrial Detention Of U.S. Citizen Paul Whelan

Updated

Paul Whelan appears in a Moscow court on January 22.

A Moscow court has extended the pretrial detention for former U.S. Marine Paul Whelan, who is being held in Russia on an espionage charge.

The Lefortovo district court on February 22 rejected a motion filed by Paul Whelan's lawyer to transfer him to house arrest and prolonged his pretrial arrest until May 28.

Whelan's lawyer, Vladimir Zherebenkov, said the court ruling will be appealed.

A former U.S. Marine, Whelan, who holds U.S., Irish, Canadian, and British citizenship, was arrested on December 28 in Moscow and charged with spying.

If convicted, he could face up to 20 years in a Russian prison. His family says he is innocent and that he was in Moscow to attend a wedding.

Russian officials have not released details of the allegations against him.

A spokeswoman for the U.S. Embassy in Moscow, Andrea Kalan, wrote on Twitter on February 22 that the embassy was closely following Whelan’s case.

Kalan also wrote that the embassy had been unable to release any information regarding the case because Whelan had not been allowed to give a signed Privacy Act Waiver to the embassy.

"U.S. privacy laws require a consular official obtain permission from someone before we can release any information about their case, and this is done routinely," Kalan wrote.

Kalan also expressed concerns over the refusal of Russian authorities to allow Whelan to do so.

Whelan was working as a global security director for a U.S. auto-parts manufacturer at the time of his arrest.

Relations between Russia and the United States have been strained over Russia’s alleged interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, its seizure and illegal annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula, its support for pro-Russia separatists in eastern Ukraine, and the 2018 poisoning of Russian former spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter in Britain with a nerve agent.

Whelan's detainment came weeks after a Russian woman, Maria Butina, pleaded guilty in a U.S. court to acting as an agent for the Kremlin.

The Kremlin has denied that Butina is a Russian agent and has organized a social-media campaign to secure her release.

In the past, Russia has arrested foreigners with the aim of trading prisoners with other countries.

Whelan's lawyer has said that his client is innocent and suggested that Russian officials may be trying to use him in an exchange for Butina.

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov has rejected that scenario.

With reporting by The Washington Post, Interfax, and Reuters
  • 16x9 Image

    RFE/RL

    RFE/RL journalists report the news in 26 languages in 22 countries where a free press is banned by the government or not fully established. We provide what many people cannot get locally: uncensored news, responsible discussion, and open debate.

XS
SM
MD
LG