House urges Russia to show evidence or release Paul Whelan

Beth LeBlanc
The Detroit News

The U.S. House unanimously approved a resolution Tuesday urging Russia to produce “credible” evidence against Michigan resident Paul Whelan or “immediately” release him after nearly 10 months in custody. 

Whelan’s family has said the 49-year-old Novi man was in Russia for a friend’s wedding when he was arrested Dec. 28 in a Moscow hotel room and charged with espionage. His lawyers have said Whelan was framed and had no knowledge of the classified data on a flash drive he was handed as part of the alleged setup.

Paul Whelan.

A former U.S. Marine, Whelan was director of global security for auto parts supplier BorgWarner in Auburn Hills. Whelan has been held in Lefortovo Prison for several months without Russian authorities presenting “evidence of supposed wrongdoing,” the resolution said.

Whelan's family and the U.S. Embassy in Moscow have raised concerns about his declining health due to a hernia, as well as his treatment and isolation by authorities in Russia. A trial is not expected until early 2020.

“We have repeatedly asked the Russian government to give Paul Whelan a fair and transparent judicial process to no avail,” said U.S. Rep. Haley Stevens, D-Rochester Hills, in whose district Whelan lives.

"After 10 months in a Moscow prison, without full consular access and without being able to speak to his family, Paul’s health is deteriorating. If Russia cannot produce any evidence after keeping an American citizen detained for almost a year, they must release him immediately. Let Paul come home and get the medical care he needs."

The resolution was introduced in September in the House by Stevens and asks President Donald Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to push Russian leaders to “guarantee a fair and transparent judicial process without undue delay.” The resolution also asks Russia to ensure Whelan is given due process, consular access and “universally recognized human rights.”

The resolution’s sponsors included Rep. Tim Walberg, R-Tipton. Sen. Gary Peters, D-Bloomfield Township, and Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Lansing, have introduced a similar Senate resolution.

The resolution is one of several attempts by the Michigan delegation to move Whelan’s case forward in Russia.

Peters last month urged Trump to direct National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien to use his top hostage negotiator to advocate for Whelan in Russia. Trump has made no public comments about Whelan’s case.