Brother Of Novi Man Held In Russian Prison Says Brother Was Injured During Cell Transfer

Paul Whelan was arrested on allegations of espionage late last year.

WWJ News
August 28, 2019 - 7:32 pm
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(Photo courtesy of the Whelan Family)

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WWJ -- The brother of a Novi man being held in a Russian prison on allegations of being a spy says his brother was recently injured inside the Moscow lock-up.

Paul Whelan, 49, was arrested at a hotel in the Russian capital late last year on suspected espionage. Eight months later, the exact nature of the charges or evidence against him remain unclear.

Whelan's brother, David, tells WWJ he believes his brother, a former U.S. Marine, was injured last week after complaining about human rights violations at the Lefortovo Prison, a nearly 140-year-old facility known for strict conditions.

"They arbitrarily just moved Paul and Paul’s cellmate to a different cell, a dirtier cell that’s not in very good repair," David Whelan told WWJ. "And Paul had to physically carry all of his belongings from the one cell to the other and in doing so, aggravated a hernia that he has had."

The Whelan family has had very limited contact with Paul from inside the prison over the last eight months. So have officials with the American government. He has had few visits from the American Embassy. He also holds Canadian, Irish and British citizenship, and has not had much face-to-face contact with them, either.

"The American Embassy had been in to see him on Aug. 1, the Canadians went in to see him on Aug. 22 and in between those times, nobody was able to see him and knew what was going on. That’s a regular thing – we really don’t know day-to-day how he’s being treated, what his condition is," David Whelan said.

In March, a Russian court upheld a previous ruling to keep Whelan in the jail for three more months as he faces espionage charges. The case has stalled numerous times.

Whelan was in Russia for a wedding at the time of his arrest and was reportedly given a flash drive containing classified information, though he says he was unaware of the flash drive's contents.

His brother says the family is expecting a renewed push for help from the U.S. government next month.

"We expect at the beginning of September, particularly with Sen. Peters and Rep. Stevens, that Congress will be introducing a joint resolution stating its support for Paul and its request that Paul be released," Whelan said.

Whelan could go to trial next year and if convicted, he could face up to 20 years in prison for espionage.