Russian court extends detention for alleged Novi spy

Associated Press

Moscow – A Russian court ruled Friday to keep a former U.S. Marine held for alleged spying jailed in Moscow for another three months.

Michigan resident Paul Whelan was arrested at a hotel in the Russian capital at the end of December. Whelan’s lawyer has said his client was handed a flash drive and it had classified information he didn’t know about on it.

Masked men escorted Whelan into court, where the American spent the detention hearing behind the bars of a cell. Whelan has not been formally charged, and the Moscow court decided to keep him in pre-trial custody.

A spying conviction in Russia carries a possible prison sentence of up to 20 years.

Whelan’s brother David said in a statement he was not surprised by the ruling.

“There was never any question that the false charges against Paul would mean his ongoing isolation while the FSB (Federal Security Service) continues its attempts to concoct evidence,” David Whelan said.

The FSB revealed on Dec. 31 that its officers arrested Paul Whelan a few days earlier. The action raised speculation the Russian government was looking to swap him for a Russian held in the U.S.

Russia’s Foreign Ministry rejected the idea of Whelan being part of a possible prisoner swap.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Embassy in Moscow on Friday renewed its complaint that Russian authorities were not letting Whelan sign and submit a waiver that would allow consular officials to release more details about his case.

The embassy said it was the first time the Russian Investigative Committee did not allow a U.S. citizen in a Russian jail to hand over a signed privacy waiver form.

“Why is this case any different? Consular access without being able to do true consular support is not real access,” U.S. Embassy spokeswoman Andrea Kalan wrote on Twitter.

The Marine Corps released Whelan’s service record last month. It showed he joined the Marine Reserves in 1994, rose to the rank of staff sergeant in 2004 and deployed to Iraq for several months in 2004 and 2006.

The record showed he was convicted of charges that included larceny at a court-martial in January 2008 and given a bad-conduct discharge at the end of that year.

Court records provided by the Marine Corps indicated he was accused of attempting to steal more than $10,000 while serving as an administrative clerk in Iraq.