Former U.S. Marine Paul Whelan, convicted last year in Russia on espionage charges he denies, has been released from solitary confinement in a remote prison, his lawyer says.
Whelan has spent more than two weeks in what Russia's penitentiary system calls a "punitive isolation cell" for an unknown violation of the penitentiary's regulations.
His lawyer, Olga Karlova, said on August 8 that her client was able to talk to his parents by telephone after he was released from solitary confinement at Correctional Colony No. 17 in the region of Mordovia two days earlier.
Last week, Whelan's brother, David Whelan, and his other lawyer, Vladimir Zherebenkov, said that the 51-year-old former U.S. Marine had just served 15 days in solitary confinement for unknown reasons just before his second stint in isolation began.
Whelan 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."
Mordovia is a region located about 350 kilometers east of Moscow historically known as the location of Russia's toughest prisons, including Soviet-era labor camps for political prisoners.
Whelan has rejected the espionage charges and has accused his prison guards of mistreatment.
The United States has criticized the 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.
Whelan is one of several Americans to face trial in Russia in recent years on charges that their families, supporters, and in some cases the U.S. government, have said are trumped up.
Another former U.S. Marine, Trevor Reed, is serving a nine-year prison term in Mordovia as well. He was sentenced in July 2020 on charges of assaulting two Russian police officers.
The U.S. government and Reed deny the allegations and questioned the fairness of his judicial proceedings.