- The Washington Times - Saturday, December 28, 2019

American senators and statesmen urged Russia to free Paul Whelan, a former U.S. Marine jailed in Moscow, as Saturday marked the first anniversary of his arrest and incarceration.

Mr. Whelan, a 49-year-old Michigan resident, was arrested in Moscow on Dec. 28, 2018, and subsequently accused of espionage. He remains in custody a year later at the city’s infamous Lefortovo prison, notwithstanding complaints from advocates in the U.S. Senate, House of Representatives and Department of State opposed to him being held without Russian prosecutors offering any evidence to suggest he spied.

Sen. Marco Rubio, Florida Republican, said on Twitter that Mr. Whelan is “unjustly detained” and “should be released immediately and reunited with his family,” echoing remarks published in a recent editorial written by Sen. Gary Peters, Michigan Democrat.

Rep. Haley Stevens, Michigan Democrat, tweeted that prosecutors have presented “no credible evidence” against Mr. Whelan and that he is being held in poor conditions and in deteriorating health.

And members of the State Department, present and past, similarly pushed Russia to release Mr. Whelan from custody as he finished his first full year behind bars.

“365 days. Still no evidence. Still no phone calls to his family despite multiple requests. Still no independent medical care. Enough is enough,” tweeted Rebecca Ross, a spokesperson for the U.S. Embassy in Russia.

Michael McFaul, a former U.S. ambassador to Russia, said that President Trump should call his counterpart in the Kremlin and “demand the release of Paul Whelan.”

The White House did not immediately return a request for comment over the weekend.

Russian prosecutors allege that Mr. Whelan was arrested in Moscow while carrying a USB drive containing classified information. He claims he was “set up” by an acquaintance employed by Russian security services and has referred to himself as a “victim of political kidnap and ransom.”

Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo, Mr. Trump’s former CIA director, said during a press conference this month that he discussed Mr. Whelan during a recent bilateral meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in Washington, D.C., adding that “bringing home our citizens abroad as soon as possible is one of President Trump’s highest priorities.”

Mr. Lavrov defended Russia’s treatment of the prisoner was standing alongside Mr. Pompeo at the press conference, calling Mr. Whelan “arrogant” and accusing him of trying to “create an image of a martyr.”

More recently, a judge in Moscow ruled on Christmas Eve that Mr. Whelan should remain imprisoned awaiting trial until at least March 29, 2020, more than a year and three months since his arrest.

• Andrew Blake can be reached at ablake@washingtontimes.com.

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