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U.S. ambassador rebukes Russia over alleged 'secret trial' of American charged with spying

Ambassador posted letter on embassy website after being denied entry to trial.

Published: April 21, 2020 2:43pm

Updated: April 21, 2020 3:41pm

The U.S. Ambassador to Russia is lambasting Moscow for apparently holding secret proceedings in the trial of Paul Whelan, a U.S. citizen who is charged with espionage. 

“It’s a fundamental human right that anyone accused of a crime is presumed innocent and is tried in a fair impartial and public hearing,” Ambassador John Sullivan said in a letter posted on the U.S. Embassy in Moscow’s website on Monday. “The fact that it is a closed hearing, that it is a secret trial – Paul hasn’t seen the evidence against him – it makes a mockery of justice.”

Whelan was arrested in Moscow in 2018 on what his family says are trumped up charges against the ex-Marine. He was employed as a corporate security officer at the time of his arrest. Whelan has been held in increasing isolation, his twin brother, David, told Just the News, and has not spoken to family in 16 months.

Ambassador Sullivan twice has gone to court to see the jailed man, David Whelan said. Both times, the ambassador was denied entry.

“No one is allowed in the courthouse now,” Whelan said, adding that only the participants know what is happening inside the Moscow City Court.

On Monday, after being turned away from court for the second time, Sullivan wrote his public letter chastising Russia and asking officials to proceed with basic benevolence toward the captive American.  

“I am urging the Russian government to ensure that the treatment of Paul Whelan in his confinement, in his detention, is humane,” Sullivan wrote. “He needs medical treatment for a medical issue that could be treated very simply, but it is a serious issue and the Russian government has refused.

"That’s intolerable, and it is unacceptable.”

The Russian government did not respond to a request for comment.

The Whelan family is concerned about the spread of COVID-19 in Russia while Paul is in detention, David Whelan said. 

“While having the trial during Moscow's pandemic lockdown is a risk for Paul's health,” he also said, “we hope that it means the charges against him will be resolved quickly, one way or another.”

In January 2019, the previous ambassador, Jon Huntsman, visited Whelan in the Lefortovo Detention Facility, accompanied by the head of American Citizen Services at U.S. Embassy Moscow, the State Department confirmed.

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