Paul Whelan visited by U.S. officials at Moscow prison; State Dept. accuses Russia of ignoring pact
Paul Whelan, a former U.S. Marine accused by Russia of espionage, was visited at a Moscow prison Tuesday by representatives from the U.S. Embassy, the Department of State confirmed afterward.
“On February 5, U.S. Embassy representatives visited Paul Whelan at the Lefortovo Detention Facility,” a State Department spokesperson told The Washington Times.
“We are strongly concerned about the delay in consular access both to Mr. Whelan and, more broadly, to U.S. citizens in Russia and about Russia’s lack of adherence to the Bilateral Consular Agreement between our two countries,” the spokesperson said. “This includes allowing Mr. Whelan to provide a Privacy Act Waiver.”
Officially known as an Authorization for Release of Information Under the Privacy Act form, a Privacy Act Waiver is used “to obtain permission to release information on behalf of our citizens,” according to the State Department. Failure to obtain a waiver signed by Mr. Whelan would complicate the U.S. government’s ability to discuss his situation with individuals, including his friends and family, members of Congress, the media and the general public.
Mr. Whelan was arrested in Moscow on Dec. 28. He has been charged under Article 276 of the Russian Penal Code for Espionage and faces up to 20 years imprisonment if convicted.
Jon Huntsman, the U.S. ambassador to Russia, visited Mr. Whelan at Lefortovo with the head of U.S. Embassy in Moscow’s American Citizen Services division on Jan. 2.
U.S. Embassy consular officers had planned to visit Mr. Whelan again in the interim on Jan. 17, but that meeting was abruptly canceled by Russian officials hours before it was scheduled to occur, the State Department spokesperson told The Washington Times on Tuesday.
Embassy representatives subsequently attended Mr. Whelan’s pretrial hearing in Moscow City Court on Jan. 22.
“The U.S. Department of State takes seriously our obligation to visit detained U.S. citizens regularly and ensure that they receive humane treatment and access to medical care,” the spokesperson said. “We continue to urge Russia to follow international law and provide for swift, fair, and transparent judicial processes for all detained U.S. citizens in Russia.”
Mr. Whelan was arrested in Moscow carrying a flash drive allegedly containing classified information, according to Russian officials.
“We are deeply concerned for his safety and well-being,” his twin brother, David Whelan, said previously. “His innocence is undoubted and we trust that his rights will be respected.”