Michigan native Whelan being held in solitary confinement in Russian prison

Hani Barghouthi
The Detroit News

Detroit — American prisoner Paul Whelan will remain in solitary confinement in Russia until early August, continuing three weeks of no contact with his family, according to his brother, David Whelan. 

Whelan was arrested in Moscow in 2018 and sentenced to 16 years in prison on an espionage charge. His lawyer said the former corporate security executive and Oakland County native was handed a flash drive containing classified information that he did not know about. 

Paul Whelan, a former U.S. Marine, center, who was arrested for alleged spying in Moscow at the end of 2018, speaks to a journalist while being escorted for a hearing in a court room in Moscow, Russia, Friday, Aug. 23, 2019.

Whelan spent time in June in a medical facility to treat a lingering cough and bursitis in his elbow that resulted from factory work, he said to CNN in early June.

President Joe Biden said Whelan and another U.S. prisoner in Russia, Trevor Reed, are being "wrongfully imprisoned" in Russia and advocated on their behalf with Russian President Vladimir Putin at a Geneva summit, also in June. Putin opened the door to possible discussions about a prisoner swap with the U.S. and said the conversations would continue. 

The U.S. and Russia will again hold bilateral talks in Geneva on July 28, and Whelan's family said they "hope his case will again be raised in recognition that his release could promote strategic stability."

Whelan was placed in solitary confinement upon his return to prison for "having food in a bag," said David in a Wednesday email to reporters. No further information was offered to the family when they learned that his confinement would be extended another two weeks. 

"This is the longest stretch of time Paul has been isolated and unable to call our parents or have contact with any embassy since he arrived in Mordovia last autumn," David Whelan said in the update.