A Moscow court sentenced the American-British Paul Whelan on Monday (June 15th) to 16 years in prison for spying in Russia. The condemned man, 50 years old, has pleaded not guilty and his lawyers will appeal within the legal time limit of ten days.
Present at the hearing, Paul Whelan immediately announced that he would appeal and denounced "a sham trial", according to an AFP journalist on the spot.
The judge said the 50-year-old former marine will serve his sentence in a "severe regime camp". Present at the hearing, Paul Whelan immediately announced that he would appeal and denounced "a sham trial", according to an AFP journalist on the spot.
This 50-year-old man, who also has Canadian and Irish citizenship, was arrested in 2018 in the middle of a "spying act", according to the Russian security services, the FSB. But Paul Whelan has been claiming since his innocence.
"Russia believed it had caught James Bond on a mission. In reality, they kidnapped Mr. Bean on vacation," he said.
Paul Whelan claims to have been trapped by an acquaintance who sent him a USB key containing what he thought were photographs taken during a previous stay in Russia with him.
Shady relations between the United States and Russia
The Paul Whelan affair is one of the many sources of tension between Moscow and Washington. It is in addition to the disputes over the Ukrainian conflict, the war in Syria and the maintenance of strategic parity between the two great powers.
The American ambassador in Moscow, John Sullivan, denounces an unfair and not very transparent trial. "It was secret, no evidence was produced," he said, quoted by the US embassy spokesperson on Twitter.
Last month, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called for the release of Paul Whelan.
According to the accused's lawyer, Vladimir Jerebenkov, the prosecutor is convinced that Paul Whelan is "an officer - at least a colonel - of the American Defense Intelligence Agency".
The family of the detainee said that they considered his conviction to be "inevitable", stressing that it would not be "based on facts".
Safety director for an American auto parts maker, Paul Whelan says he was in Russia for a wedding at the time of his arrest.
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