A former U.S. marine held in Russia on suspicion of spying was sentenced Monday to 16 years in jail, according to state media reports and the U.S. embassy in Moscow.
Paul Whelan, who holds U.S., British, Canadian and Irish passports, was detained in the Russian capital at the end of December 2018. He was accused of espionage, a charge he denies.
Whelan’s defense said they would appeal the decision within 10 days, according to Russian news agency, Interfax.
“Today, #PaulWhelan was convicted and sentenced to 16 years in prison in Russia,” Rebecca Ross, spokesperson at the U.S. embassy in Moscow, tweeted attributing the remarks to U.S. Ambassador to Russia, John J. Sullivan.
“This secret trial in which no evidence was produced is an egregious violation of human rights and international legal norms.”
Ross subsequently tweeted that the ambassador has demanded Whelan is released immediately and considers his conviction a mockery of justice.
Spying charges carry a prison sentence of up to 20 years in Russia.
Whelan’s brother, David Whelan, told MSNBC after his detention that he was in Russia to attend a wedding but never made it to the ceremony. He also said the family had learned Whelan had been detained from online news reports.
Whelan has been detained in Russia for over 17 months. His trial has been closed to the public because Moscow says the case is classified.
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