Russia sentences ex-U.S. marine Paul Whelan to 16 years in jail for espionage

US citizen Paul Whelan holds up a sign denouncing the legal proceedings against him as he stands inside the defendant's cage before hearing the verdict of his espionage trial at the Moscow City Court in Moscow, Russia, 15 June 2020. Whelan, a former police officer who holds quadruple citizenship of the United States, Britain, Canada and Ireland, was arrested on suspicion of being a foreign spy by Russia's Federal Security Service (FSB) in late December 2018 in Moscow. The court found him guilty and sentenced Whelan to 16 years' imprisonment in a high-security penitentiary with the possibility of serving time in a labor camp. EPA-EFE/YURI KOCHETKOV

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A Russian court found ex-U.S. marine Paul Whelan guilty of spying for the United States on Monday and sentenced him to 16 years in jail after a closed trial which U.S. diplomats said was unfair and opaque.

Whelan, who holds U.S., British, Canadian and Irish passports, has been in custody since he was detained by agents from Russia’s Federal Security Service in a Moscow hotel room on Dec. 28 2018.

Moscow says Whelan, 50, was caught red-handed with a computer flash drive containing classified information. Whelan, who pleaded not guilty, said he was set up in a sting and had thought the drive, given to him by a Russian acquaintance, contained holiday photos.

U.S. diplomats have described the case as a “significant obstacle” to improving already poor bilateral ties and have repeatedly said there is no evidence against him and asked Russia to release him.

State prosecutors, who accused Whelan of being at least a ranking U.S. military intelligence colonel, had asked the court to sentence Whelan to 18 years in a maximum security prison.

Via Reuters

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