House Calls on Russia to Release American Detained 10 Months

Paul Whelan, a former U.S. Marine who was arrested in Moscow, Russia, in December 2018, waits for a court hearing. (AP Photo/Pavel Golovkin)

WASHINGTON (CN) – The House of Representatives on Tuesday unanimously called on Russia to either release Paul Whelan, the U.S. citizen who for nearly 10 months has been held in Moscow on accusations of spying, or provide evidence of wrongdoing.

While in the country for a friend’s wedding in December, Whelan, a Michigan resident and Marine Corps veteran, was arrested at his hotel in Moscow and accused of being in possession of a thumb drive that contained classified information. He has spent the ensuing 10 months in Lefortovo prison and has maintained that he is innocent and was set up.

Whelan was scheduled to have hernia surgery when he returned from Russia, and his family and supporters have expressed concerns about the medical care he is receiving in prison.

“It is long past time that we bring Paul home to his family and get him the medical care he needs,” Representative Haley Stevens, a Michigan Democrat who represents the town where Whelan lives, said on the House floor Tuesday.

The Trump administration has also maintained Whelan’s innocence, with former U.S. Ambassador to Russia Jon Huntsman saying this past April that if there was evidence of wrongdoing it “would have been brought forward by now.”

Huntsman met with Whelan in prison shortly before leaving the diplomatic post this month.

A State Department official on Tuesday said the administration is watching Whelan’s case “closely” and has pressed Russia for his “fair and humane treatment, unrestricted consular access, access to appropriate medical care and due process.”

“We have repeatedly raised our concerns regarding the lack of evidence that has been presented in Mr. Whelan’s case,” the State Department official said. “We continue to urge the Russian government to ensure a fair trial, including a fair and public hearing without undue delay, in accordance with its international legal obligations.”

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