Marine veteran Paul Whelan sentenced to 16 years in Russia on spying charges

MOSCOW (AP) — A Russian court sentenced a Marine veteran to 16 years in prison on spying charges a sentence he rejected as political.

The Moscow City Court on Monday read out the conviction of Paul Whelan on charges of espionage and sentenced him to 16 years in a maximum security prison colony.

Whelan has insisted on his innocence, saying he was set up. The U.S. Embassy has denounced Whelan’s trial as unfair, pointing that no evidence has been provided.

Whelan, an American who also holds British, Irish and Canadian citizenship, was arrested Dec. 28, 2018, in a Moscow hotel while visiting for a friend’s wedding. The Russian government charged him with espionage, which carries up to 20 years in prison. He has publicly complained of poor prison conditions and has said his life is in danger.

Whelan’s brother David said lawyers will appeal the verdict that he denounced as political, adding in a statement that “the court’s decision merely completes the final piece of this broken judicial process.”

“We had hoped that the court might show some independence but, in the end, Russian judges are political, not legal, entities,” the statement said. “We look to the U.S. government to immediately take steps to bring Paul home.”

Whelan served in the Marine reserves for nearly 14 years as an administrative clerk and received a bad conduct discharge for several charges related to larceny following a conviction at a special court-martial on Jan. 14, 2008, Marine Corps Times previously reported.

Whelan attained the rank of staff sergeant in 2004, and was separated from the Corps on Dec. 2, 2008, at the rank of private. He had joined May 10, 1994, and had deployed twice in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

He served as an 0151, administrative clerk, 0149, administrative chief, and his last duty station was Marine Air Control Group 38 Headquarters, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing aboard Miramar, California, according to his service record book.

The Michigander had been director of global security for BorgWarner, based in Auburn Hills, Michigan, since 2017 but that role was eliminated Dec. 13, 2019 in a corporate restructuring announced in April, BorgWarner spokeswoman Kathy Graham said.

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