- The Washington Times - Saturday, August 24, 2019

Russia faced pressure Saturday from the State Department to free Paul Whelan, a former U.S. Marine jailed in Moscow, amid growing concerns about his well-being behind bars.

Andrea Kaplan, a spokesperson for the U.S. Embassy in Moscow, called on Russia to release Mr. Whelan after he complained in court Friday of being injured while jailed at the city’s infamous Lefortovo prison, where he has been held for nearly eight months on suspicion of spying.

Paul Whelan’s health is at risk, and yet Lefortovo prison officials refuse to provide medical records or an independent medical examination. It’s time to put an end to this and allow Paul to go home to get proper medical treatment,” Ms. Kaplan said on Twitter.

Mr. Whelan, a 49-year-old businessman and former Marine reservist from Michigan, was arrested in Moscow last December and charged with espionage. He has denied spying and claimed that his prosecution is politically motivated.

Appearing in court Friday, Mr. Whelan said that he was beaten while behind bars and is suffering from a hernia, according to attendees.

“I am standing here in great pain due to an injury sustained in the prison by the prison guards,” said Mr. Whelan, Agence France-Presse reported.

The hearing was briefly halted so that paramedics could examine Mr. Whelan, but his judge ultimately decided that hospitalization was not necessary and ordered him to remain jailed through at least Oct. 29, AFP reported.

The U.S. Embassy in Moscow said Friday that it has requested urgent consult access to speak with Mr. Whelan about his health, while the Russian Foreign Ministry shrugged off the concerns by comparing him to inmates held at U.S. prisons.

“There are millions of prisoners in the United States, of whom over 50 are Russian citizens, and many are ill,” the Russian Foreign Ministry said Saturday, state media reported.

Russian investigators alleged that Mr. Whelan was arrested while in possession of a flash drive containing classified information. He faces up to 20 years in Russian prison if convicted.

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