A Russian court sentenced former U.S. Marine Paul Whelan on Monday to 16 years in prison for espionage.
Whelan was arrested and accused of spying in December 2018 in a Russian hotel and allegedly possessed a flash drive containing Russian classified information, Reuters reported. Whelan said he was a set-up since he thought the flash drive given to him by a Russian acquaintance contained holiday pictures, not Russian classified information.
Whelan, calling the trial a “sham” and “political theater,” pleaded not guilty, according to Reuters.
Whelan, holding citizenship in the United States, Great Britain and Ireland, called on the countries’ leaders to intervene, Reuters reported. Whelan has previously called on President Donald Trump for support.
U.S. Ambassador to Russia John Sullivan said Whelan’s conviction won’t “have a good impact” on Washington-Moscow relations, Sullivan said, according to Reuters.
“If they can do this to Paul, they can do this to anyone. A secret trial with the inability to defend oneself … it’s a mockery of justice in addition to the fact that he’s been horribly mistreated,” Sullivan said in a statement, according to CNN. (RELATED: Everything We Know About Obama’s Involvement In The Russia Conspiracy)
Vladimir Zherebenkov, Whelan’s lawyer, is appealing the decision and reportedly told Whelan that Russia will be swapping him in a prisoner exchange with the United States, according to Reuters.
U.S. Secretary of State Michael Pompeo said Monday he was “outraged by the decision today to convict Paul Whelan on the basis of a secret trial, with secret evidence, and without appropriate allowances for defense witnesses.”
Outraged by the decision today to convict Paul Whelan on the basis of a secret trial, with secret evidence, and without appropriate allowances for defense witnesses. Paul’s treatment by Russian authorities continues to be appalling, and we demand his immediate release.
— Secretary Pompeo (@SecPompeo) June 15, 2020
The Department of Defense and the State Department did not immediately respond to the Daily Caller News Foundation’s requests for comment.
Whelan was discharged from the Marines in January 2008 after being court-martialed for larceny related charges, according to the Detroit Free Press.
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