- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Paul Whelan, a former U.S. Marine imprisoned in Russia, has been interrogated and isolated by jailers attempting to coerce a false confession, his brother said Monday.

David Whelan, nonetheless, expressed optimism over efforts by the State Department to secure his sibling’s release 80 days since his arrest in Moscow on an espionage charge.

“We are concerned that he has been interrogated — without the presence of his lawyers or his translator — on multiple times since his arrest,” he wrote in an email sent to reporters. “This psychological stress on Paul will continue until U.S. government pressure is brought to bear on those responsible.”

Paul Whelan mentioned the interrogations when he was visited in prison Friday by U.S. Embassy officials, but a Russian official intervened and warned the diplomats that discussions related to his arrest were prohibited, his brother wrote.

“We continue to urge the Russian government to guarantee a fair and transparent judicial process without undue delay, in accordance with its international legal obligations,” a State Department official told The Washington Times when asked about Friday’s visit. “We take our responsibility to assist U.S. citizens abroad seriously, and will continue to press for fair and humane treatment, due process and access to medical care.”

A former member of the Marine Corps Reserve from Michigan, Mr. Whelan was arrested in Moscow in late December and charged under Article 276 of the Russian Penal Code for Espionage. He has been held ever since at the city’s notorious Lefortovo prison, where his brother wrote that authorities have blocked him from communicating beyond its walls both by phone and mail.

Despite obstacles imposed by Russia, the email cited unspecified recent developments as an indication that U.S. authorities are pursuing a resolution, adding: “We’re more confident now that U.S. government patience is not unlimited.”

“We are encouraged about what the State Department — both inside and outside consular services — is monitoring about Paul’s situation,” the email stated. “More importantly, we were reassured that, as decision points are reached, State has identified next steps.”

Mr. Whelan, 49, was arrested while carrying a flash drive that Russian authorities have described as containing classified information. He has denied wrongdoing, and Russian authorities have failed to produce any evidence to support their charges, his brother wrote.

Maria Zakharova, a spokeswoman for Russia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, last week dismissed concerns about Mr. Whelan’s imprisonment from the State Department as “hysterical.”

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