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Whelan's Legal Team Reportedly Seeking Transfer From Russia To U.S. Prison

Paul Whelan in a Moscow court in October 2019.

Local media say former U.S. Marine Paul Whelan's legal team will request his transfer from a Russian prison to the U.S. to serve out the remainder of his sentence.

Whelan, 50, was arrested in Moscow in December 2018 on espionage charges and sentenced to 16 years in prison in May 2020 following a trial that was condemned by the United States as a "mockery of justice.”

Russian news outlets RIA Novosti and TASS reported on July 7 that Whelan had asked about the possibility during a visit with him at his penal colony.

"We are preparing a petition to the Moscow City Court about transferring Whelan to serve his sentence in the United States," RIA Novosti cited Olga Karlova, one of his lawyers, as saying.

The 50-year-old 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.

He has rejected the espionage charges and accused his prison guards of mistreatment.

The United States has 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.

Reports have surfaced several times of a possible swap involving Whelan and two Russians -- arms dealer Viktor Bout and drug smuggler Konstantin Yaroshenko -- who are serving lengthy sentences in U.S. prisons.

Another former U.S. Marine, Trevor Reed, has also been mentioned as a possible prisoner in Russia who could be part of a swap. Reed was sentenced to nine years in prison in Russia in July 2020 for assaulting police, a charge he has rejected.

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