Paul Whelan, former U.S. Marine jailed in Russia: ‘I am a victim of political kidnap and ransom’
Paul Whelan, a former U.S. Marine jailed in Moscow for the past five months, compared himself Friday to a prisoner of war being held hostage by the Russian government.
Mr. Whelan spoke out against his ongoing detainment during a court hearing that ended in him being ordered to remain behind bars until at least Aug. 29.
“I am a victim of political kidnap and ransom,” Mr. Whelan said. “There’s obviously no credibility to this situation. There is absolutely no legitimacy.
“My personal safety has been threatened,” he said. “There are abuses and harassment that I am constantly subjected to. I have not had a shower in two weeks, I can’t use a barber, I have to cut my own hair, I can’t have medical treatment, I can’t have dental treatment, I haven’t had books that were sent to me two months ago, letters, nothing is being delivered. Everything is being kept from me.”
Addressing reporters from inside a cage within Lefortovo District Court, Mr. Whelan described his conditions as typical of isolation techniques used on prisoners of war.
“They are trying to run me down so that I will talk to them. This is Salem witch trial mentality,” he added.
Mr. Whelan, 49, was arrested in Moscow in late December and subsequently charged with espionage. He faces a maximum sentence of 20 years if convicted.
Russian investigators allege that Mr. Whelan, a resident of Michigan at the time of his arrest, was caught carrying a USB drive containing classified information. He has maintained his innocence and insisted his arrest was political retaliation for the U.S. imposing sanctions on Russia over its annexation of Crimea in 2014.
Andrea Kalan, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Embassy in Moscow, said she was “disappointed” with the outcome of Friday’s hearing and urged Russia to reverse course.
“Why should Paul Whelan continue to be held at Lefortovo Prison when there is no evidence of his guilt?,” she tweeted. “The mature, civilized course would be to let Paul go home to his elderly parents, who are wondering if they’ll see their son alive again. We would like to see the court take this reasonable step and stop this futile ‘investigation’.”
Mr. Whelan attempted during Friday’s hearing to make a statement appealing to President Trump and Congress but was blocked from speaking, BBC reported.
The White House did not immediately return a request for comment.