An apex court of Russia has ruled out on Friday that convicted former American marine Paul Whelan accused of spying should be held for a further three-month pre-trial detention facility in order to provide investigators additional time to intensely look into Whelan’s case.
According to Reuters news reports, Whelan was detained in Moscow in a hotel room on December 28 accused of espionage, a charge which Whelan denies. If Whelan founds to be guilty, he could suffer imprisonment for up to 20 years. His case has strained on already poor relations between Russia and the United States.
After an acquaintance handed Whelan a flash drive containing private information, Russian federal security service arrested him. The lawyer, Vladimir Zherebenkov told reporters on Friday that Whelan had met with that same person again in the Sergiev Possad town in last year’s May.
“Paul and I consider this was a provocation and a crime by his acquaintance,” said Zherebenkov, saying Whelan had known the man, whom he did not name, for several years.
On Friday, Whelan appeared before the court and spoke briefly to reporters before security officials cut him off. Whelan said, “I could do with care packages, food, things like that, letters from home.”
The Russian court said Whelan would be held in pre-trial detention until 28th May, further extending the earlier ruling in order to keep him in custody until 28th February.
The U.S. embassy in Moscow said a consular official had visited Whelan in custody on Thursday. It added it was not able to give further information as Whelan had not been allowed by the investigators to sign a PAW (privacy act waiver) that would allow legally Washington government to release information about his case.
US embassy spokesperson Andrea Kalan wrote on Twitter: “In every other instance, we have been able to obtain a signed PAW, but in Mr Whelan’s case, the Investigative Committee is not allowing this to happen. Why is this case any different?”