The Washington Times: House passes resolution calling on Russia to release former Marine jailed in Moscow
October 22, 2019
Tim In The News
Paul Whelan, a former U.S. Marine jailed in Russia on suspicion of spying, received support Tuesday from Capitol Hill in the form of a measure passing the House of Representatives.
A bipartisan resolution urging Russia to either provide evidence of Mr. Whelan’s alleged wrongdoing or release him from prison was agreed by a voice vote held on the House floor.
Led by Rep. Haley Stevens, Michigan Democrat, the House resolution was introduced last month as Mr. Whelan nears spending a year in Moscow’s infamous Lefortovo prison.
Mr. Whelan, a 49-year-old Michigan resident, was arrested in Moscow in Dec. 2019. He has remained jailed ever since over allegations of espionage that he has vigorously denied.
Russian prosecutors claim Mr. Whelan was caught carrying a flash drive containing classified information. Mr. Whelan said during a recent court appearance that an acquaintance he identified as a known member of the Russian Federal Security Service, or FSB, the successor to the Soviet-era KGB, had placed something in his pocket moments before his arrest.
“I’m not allowed to give you details but I can say that I was set up,” Mr. Whelan said at a court hearing last month in Moscow. “I did not commit a crime.”
The House resolution was voted under suspension of the rules, meaning it required the support of two-thirds of members present and voting to pass. It boasted a total of 21 co-sponsors — 12 Democrats and nine Republicans — prior to being considered in the House, while an identical resolution pending in the Senate currently has three co-sponsors, all Democrats.
“We have repeatedly asked the Russian government to give Paul Whelan a fair and transparent judicial process to no avail,” said Ms. Stevens. “If Russia cannot produce any evidence after keeping an American citizen detained for almost a year, they must release him immediately.”
“It is unacceptable for an American citizen to be detained for any length of time without charges and without proper medical care,” said Rep. Tim Walberg, Michigan Republican. “We stand united today saying this is not a partisan issue. It is an American issue. As Republicans and Democrats, we are committed to raising awareness about Paul’s case and advocating for his freedom, and we stand to send a strong and powerful message today by passing this resolution.”
The State Department has similarly called repeatedly on the Russian government to release Mr. Whelan absent offering any legitimate reason for keeping him in custody.
In addition to pressing Russia to either produce its evidence against Mr. Whelan or release him, the resolutions urge Moscow to ensure he is granted unrestricted consulate access and afforded due process and his universally recognized human rights in the meantime.
The Russian Foreign Ministry did not immediately respond to a message requesting comment. Russian government officials have previously said Mr. Whelan was caught “red handed” and have downplayed concerns about his detainment.
Mr. Whelan’s trial is currently scheduled to start in January 2020.
This article originally appeared in the October 22 edition of the Washington Times.