Russia Sentences Former US Marine to 16 Years in Prison  

A Russian court Monday sentenced a former U.S. marine to 16 years in prison on espionage charges. Paul Whelan, 50, was accused of spying for the United States after he was handed a flash drive by an acquaintance that allegedly contained classified information during a visit to Russia to attend a wedding in 2018. The Michigan resident was arrested at a hotel in Moscow in December of that year. Whelan’s Russian lawyer Vladimir Zherebenkov said he planned to appeal the sentence. Zherebenkov said he believed “that there was a crime encouragement” by Whelan’ acquaintance, who has connections with Russian special services. Whelan had rejected the charges and called the case a sham trial and political charade. Whelan maintained throughout the trial he thought the flash drive he received contained holiday photos.   The U.S. Ambassador to Russia, John Sullivan, called Whelan’s case a “mockery of justice” and his treatment as “shameful.”  Whelan’s brother David said in a statement on behalf of Whelan’s family “We had hoped that the court might show some independence but, in the end, Russian judges are political, not legal, entities. We look to the U.S. government to immediately take steps to bring Paul home.” Whelan had an “emergency hernia operation” at a Moscow hospital, after experiencing “severe abdominal pain” last month. “It is unacceptable that Paul Whelan has been denied necessary medical treatment until his condition became dire,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo tweeted on May 30. The U.S. Department of State had demanded Whelan’s immediate release. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has said Whelan was caught “red-handed.”  

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