- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 12, 2019

Members of Congress urged colleagues Thursday to condemn the Russian government for continuing to detain Paul Whelan, a former U.S. Marine jailed in Moscow for nearly the past nine months.

Lawmakers representing Michigan, where Mr. Whelan lived prior to being arrested in Moscow late last year on suspicion of spying, denounced his ongoing detainment during a press conference held on Capitol Hill and asked that Russia either provide evidence to justify his jailing or release him from prison.

“Russian authorities haven’t come up with any evidence, any charges against him, which is simply unconscionable,” said Sen. Gary Peters, a Democrat. “To be able to pick an American citizen off of the street and put him in the prison — and not a very good prison at that … And then not to be able to produce any sort of charges or any sort of evidence is simply not the way that a government should operate.

“All we ask is to give us the reason or release Paul,” echoed Rep. Tim Walberg, Michigan Republican.

Along with Sen. Debbie Stabenow, Rep. Haley Stevens, and Rep. Dan Kildee, all Michigan Democrats, the lawmakers said they are backing resolutions being proposed in both chambers of Congress formally making their case for Mr. Whelan’s release.

“It’s not a partisan issue. It’s an American issue,” Mr. Walberg told reporters.

The members of Michigan’s congressional delegation were joined on Capitol Hill by Rep. Bill Keating, the chair of the House Foreign Affairs subcommittee that handles issues related to Russia, and Elizabeth Whelan, the detainee’s sister.

“I am confident that if the Russian people knew the way Paul was being treated that they would be standing here with us as well,” said Mr. Keating, Massachusetts Democrat. “We try to work with Russian officials, but their actions in this instance are even a departure from their normal actions, and we don’t have answers for that.”

“If we are going to continue to work with the Russian government the way I hope we can, looking for areas of agreement and commonality, actions like this stand directly in the way of our ability to do that,” added Mr. Keating.

The Russian Foreign Ministry did not immediately return requests for comment.

Mr. Whelan, 49, was arrested in Moscow on Dec. 28, 2018. Russian investigators say he was caught with a flash drive containing classified information and accordingly accused him of spying. He is currently being held at Moscow’s infamous Lefortovo prison and faces up to 20 years imprisonment if convicted of espionage.

A former Marine reservist, Mr. Whelan has maintained his innocence and described himself as “a victim of political kidnap and ransom.”

“There’s obviously no credibility to this situation,” Mr. Whelan previously said of the Russian case against him. “There is absolutely no legitimacy.”

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