Russia resisting calls to produce evidence in Paul Whelan case: State Dept.

March 15, 2019 GMT

The U.S. State Department sought answers Friday from Russia over Moscow’s stalled case against Paul Whelan, a former U.S. Marine jailed overseas since December.

“Shortly after U.S. citizen Paul Whelan was arrested in Moscow, Russian officials said they caught him red-handed. It’s been more than two months now, and we haven’t seen a shred of evidence,” said Andrea Kalan, a spokesperson for the U.S. Embassy in Russia. “Why haven’t they produced it?”

Ms. Kalan raised the question on Twitter a day after Mr. Whelan, 49, was denied bail and ordered to remain behind bars until at least May 28.

“This is basically a kangaroo court,” Mr. Whelan reacted to the ruling, Reuters reported.

A former member of the Marine Reserves from near Detroit, Michigan, Mr. Whelan was arrested late last year while in possession of what Russian authorities have described as a flash drive containing classified information. He was subsequently charged with espionage and has held at the notorious Lefortovo Prison in Moscow ever since.

Mr. Whelan was handed the flash drive from an acquaintance expecting it contained photographs of Russian churches, his lawyer said previously. He has professed his innocence and believes he was set-up by the FSB, a Russian intelligence agency, according to his attorney.

Embassy officials were scheduled to visit Mr. Whelan on Friday for the first time in several weeks on the heels of raising complaints with Moscow.

“Russian authorities have obstructed some of our routine efforts in providing consular assistance,” a State Department spokesperson told The Washington Times last month. “We have expressed our concerns through diplomatic channels.”

Maria Zakharova, a spokeswoman for Russia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, responded to the complaints Friday by dismissing the length of Mr. Whelan’s ongoing incarceration, state media reported.

“Two months and the embassy is already getting hysterical,” said Ms. Zakharova, the RIA news agency reported. “Law enforcement agencies are working on the case, the guy was caught red-handed, and that was announced openly. I don’t see any grounds for American diplomats to get worked up.”