Russia Sentences U.S. Ex-Marine to 16 Years in Prison in Spy Trial

A Russian court on Monday sentenced former U.S. marine Paul Whelan to 16 years in a penal colony for espionage in a case that strained ties with Washington and fueled speculation of a prisoner swap.

Moscow City Court found Whelan guilty of receiving classified information as he stood in the dock with a sign that read “Sham trial!” and pleaded for U.S. President Donald Trump to intervene in the case.

The court process is “slimy, greasy Russian politics nothing more, nothing less,” he said.

Whelan, 50, has been held in a Moscow jail since his arrest in December 2018 and his trial was held behind closed doors because of the accusations of seeking to obtain state secrets.

Throughout the trial he maintained his innocence, saying he was framed and comparing himself to the hapless comedy character Mr. Bean.

“Russia thought they caught James Bond on a spy mission, in reality they abducted Mr. Bean on holiday,” he said.

Whelan says he was detained on a visit to Moscow to attend a wedding when he took a USB drive from an acquaintance thinking it contained holiday photographs.

The prosecution had asked the judge to sentence Whelan to 18 years in a strict-regime penal colony, just short of the 20 years maximum term for the charge. 

‘No evidence’

The U.S. ambassador to Moscow John Sullivan condemned the trial as unfair and lacking transparency.

“I am disappointed, outraged by what I just heard,” he told reporters in court. 

“(Whelan has) been sentenced to 16 years in prison with no evidence that’s been produced.

“I can’t say I’m surprised. This is the direction this case has been heading from the beginning,” he added.

The prosecutor summed up last month by saying Whelan tried to receive information that was a state secret and could harm Russia’s security, Whelan’s lawyer Vladimir Zherebenkov told reporters.

The prosecutor claimed that Whelan has the rank of an officer — “at least a colonel” — at the U.S. defense intelligence agency, the lawyer said.

Whelan’s family had said ahead of the verdict that a guilty verdict was a foregone conclusion. 

After Monday’s ruling, his brother David said in a statement that he family would continue to fight for his release, and criticized the court’s politically motivated verdict.

“We had hoped that the court might show some independence but, in the end, Russian judges are political, not legal, entities,” he said.  

Whelan was dishonorably discharged as a marine before working as head of global security at a U.S. autoparts company.

There have been suggestions that if convicted, Whelan, who also has British, Canadian and Irish passports, could be returned to the U.S. in a prisoner swap.

Whelan’s lawyer said on Monday that Russian intelligence services were considering an exchange with two Russians detained in the United States, including pilot Konstantin Yaroshenko, imprisoned on drug smuggling charges.

His twin brother David said in a statement that the family hope that a conviction will allow Russia and the United States to “begin discussing Paul’s release immediately.”

Whelan has complained of being mistreated in prison and late last month underwent an operation in a Moscow hospital that his family said was emergency hernia surgery.

The US embassy criticized the Russian authorities for waiting till his condition was “life-threatening to provide him medical attention,” while the Russian Foreign Ministry described the procedure as “simple.”

(c) The Moscow Times


  1. “The court process is “slimy, greasy Russian politics nothing more, nothing less,” he said.”

    Yes, but we expect nothing less from the terrorist state. What is disappointing, not one of the leading US media sites has this story as a lead article. They all have it tucked near the bottom of the page. Even the BBC has it in a prominent position.

  2. Like most fascist dictatorships, the legal system in putlerstan exists purely to frame whatever decision that has been made by the rodent and his little friends into some sort of legalese.
    The victim is an odd character though. His social media suggests that he was a putler jackboot licker before he upset someone.

    • If he was a Putin admirer, perhaps it would be best to keep him where he is. It would foil Russian plans to have Lavrov’s drug dealer return back to mafia land.

      • Very interesting that right at the end of his show trial, the KGB immediately mentions a prisoner swap. Just another reason to label Moskovia as a state sponsor of terrorism. Then there would be no negotiations…at least since Obama is not in charge.

        • This is what Peskov said about a prisoner swap. Not that he has any idea what’s going on.

          “No, it is not possible. He was sentenced by a court decision, and the court decision says it all. He was charged and the charges were then proven in court and accepted by the court,” Dmitry Peskov said.

          • He is Putin’s mouth for hire. He would say anything he’s told and offer no proof. It’s a wonder journalists even show up for his speeches. Trump would be very clever to come out and initiate a travel warning to Moskovia. Putin resurrected the Cold War, let’s have at it!

  3. “(Whelan has) been sentenced to 16 years in prison with no evidence that’s been produced.”
    That’s the norm in a fascist-communist-crime syndicate-terrorist country. Stalin and Hitler are proud of the dwarf pedophile.
    It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know that the sentence was determined well before the trial even got started.

What is your opinion?