Reports: Whelan to remain behind bars in Russia on spying charges

Christine Ferretti
The Detroit News

A Novi man being held in Russia on spying charges will remain behind bars there until at least the end of March, according to media reports. 

Paul Whelan, 49, appeared Tuesday for a detention hearing at Moscow City Court and was ordered to remain in prison for three more months, his brother David Whelan said in an email to The News, citing Russian news and social media.

Paul Whelan, a former U.S. Marine, center, who was arrested in Moscow at the end of last year, waits for a hearing in a court in Moscow, Russia, Friday, May 24, 2019. The American was detained at the end of December for alleged spying.

"The FSB's (Federal Security Service) wrongful imprisonment of Paul will continue until the end of March," David Whelan wrote. "By that time, he will have spent 15 months in a Russian prison without any evidence to support the charges against him."

Whelan’s family has said he 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 has asked for President Trump to help end his imprisonment but there has only been silence from the White House when it comes to Paul’s case," David Whelan added Tuesday. "We will continue to hope for some diplomatic resolution but otherwise we expect Paul to remain imprisoned through a trial that may occur next summer and for however long the Russian government decides to hold him beyond trial."

In October, the U.S. House unanimously approved a resolution urging Russia to produce “credible” evidence against Whelan or “immediately” release him.

Tuesday's hearing comes after Whelan's employer, automotive parts supplier BorgWarner confirmed last week that his job in Michigan was eliminated.

BorgWarner spokeswoman Kathy Graham has said Whelan's job as director of global security for the auto parts supplier was eliminated as part of corporate restructuring efforts announced in April. He'd worked for the company, overseeing security at facilities around the world, since January 2017. 

Graham added that the company worked through the proper channels to notify Whelan's representatives of the termination as he remains in Russian custody.

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.