Michigan lawmakers want Pompeo to press Russia on Novi man's detention
Washington — Michigan's congressional delegation is urging Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to pressure Russia on providing a "fair and transparent" judicial process for Novi resident Paul Whelan, who has been detained in Moscow for three months.
Whelan, a former U.S. Marine, was detained in Moscow on Dec. 28 and has been charged with spying, which carries a potential sentence of 20 years in prison if he’s convicted.
In a letter to Pompeo, led by freshman Rep. Haley Stevens, D-Rochester Hills, the lawmakers lay out concerns about Russia's refusal to let Whelan sign power of attorney documents so his family may manage his affairs or let Whelan choose his own attorney.
"Instead, he is represented by an attorney reportedly recommended by Russia's Federal Security Service (FSB) who is clearly not acting in Mr. Whelan's best interest," the lawmakers wrote.
"Mr. Whelan should be given the opportunity to select legal counsel that is appropriate for his case."
The lawmakers noted that Russian officials have refused to provide any details about the nature of Whelan's arrest since he was detained, and urged Pompeo to "implore" the government to provide timely updates on Whelan's case.
“I have been closely monitoring Mr. Whelan’s case since December, and I’m pleased to bring together a bipartisan group of lawmakers in support of a fair and transparent judicial process," Stevens said in a statement.
"As Mr. Whelan’s representative in Congress, I will continue to work with his family and the federal government to ensure that Russia is complying with its international commitments.”
The delegation said it also supports the efforts of U.S. Ambassador to Russia Jon Huntsman Jr. to "gain regular and unrestricted access to Mr. Whelan." Huntsman last met with Whelan on Jan. 2.
"It is critical that Mr. Whelan be able to speak freely with representatives of the U.S. government, including U.S. embassy officials, without limitations," the letter says.
Each member of the Michigan delegation, including Sens. Debbie Stabenow and Gary Peters, signed onto the letter to Pompeo, except for Rep. Paul Mitchell, R-Dryden.
Whelan's family has said the FSB is isolating him. He has been interrogated multiple times since his arrest without his lawyer present, has had no mail delivered to him in Lefortovo prison and is permitted no phone calls or English-language books.
Whelan, 49, works as the global security director for a U.S. automobile parts manufacturer. His family has said he was in Moscow to attend a wedding.