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James Bond Or Mr. Bean? Either Way, Moscow Court Extends Whelan's Detention

Paul Whelan holds up his note from inside a defendants cage before a court hearing on extending his pretrial detention in Moscow on October 24.
Paul Whelan holds up his note from inside a defendants cage before a court hearing on extending his pretrial detention in Moscow on October 24.

A Russian court has extended the detention of Paul Whelan, the former U.S. Marine accused of espionage, at a hearing where he said he had been threatened with a gun by a prison guard as he awaits trial.

Moscow's Lefortovsky district court on October 24 said it had decided to prolong Whelan's incarceration to December 29.

At the hearing, Whelan asked for the recusal of the presiding judge and the prosecutor, saying they were systematically ignoring complaints about violations of his rights. His request was denied.

Upon entering the court, Whelan held up a handwritten note proclaiming his innocence and calling for international leaders to push for his release.

"Russia says it caught James Bond on a spy mission. In reality, they abducted Mr. Bean on holiday!" the note said.

"My human rights are being violated, my life threatened, medical care is being denied and my property stolen. No evidence of espionage has been provided, as it does not exist!"

The 49-year-old Whelan, who also holds Canadian, Irish, and British citizenship, was arrested in a hotel room in the Russian capital in December 2018 and accused of receiving classified information.

He was charged with espionage, which carries a sentence of up to 20 years in prison. Whelan and his family have both said he was in Moscow at the time for a wedding.

Whelan says an officer of Russia's Federal Security Service with whom he had been friends for 10 years put a flash drive into his pocket while visiting his hotel room.

Whelan then was arrested and caught "red-handed" with state secrets, Russian prosecutors allege.

He said he had "no idea" what was on the drive.

Whelan's lawyer, Vladimir Zherebenkov, told reporters after the closed-door hearing that none of the witnesses in the case so far had "said that Paul Whelan tried to engage them in spying or to recruit them."

"I am innocent of a crime that never happened," Whelan's note said.

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