- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Paul Whelan, a former U.S. Marine jailed in Russia on suspicion of spying, spoke out Tuesday amid being ordered to remain behind bars over allegations he referred to as “absolute nonsense.”

Video filmed inside a Russian courtroom showed Mr. Whelan, a 49-year-old Michigan resident accused of espionage, reacting as a judge rejected an appeal seeking his release from Moscow’s infamous Lefortovo prison.

“Everyone in the West knows this is garbage,” Mr. Whelan said from within a glass cage in the courtroom. “I’m told that I work for an intelligence agency in America. This is ridiculous.”

“If you look at the facts of this, the ones that you know, you will see there’s absolutely no proof of this at all,” Mr. Whelan added. “This is a dog and pony show. It’s a kangaroo court. And it just continues. It’s ridiculous.”

Video of the outburst caught Mr. Whelan raising his voice to make it heard over a judge speaking increasingly loudly in Russian.

“I can actually speak louder than you, your honor,” said Mr. Whelan.

“My cousins in English would say that, ‘This is bollocks. It’s total bollocks’,” Mr. Whelan added.

The hearing was held to consider an appeal filed on behalf of Mr. Whelan after the court ruled last month to extend his pre-trial detention through October 29, 10 months and a day since his arrest at a Moscow hotel.

Russian authorities claim Mr. Whelan was caught “red-handed” possessing a flash drive containing classified information. Defense lawyers previously said he expected to receive photographs of Russian churches, and the U.S. Department of State has complained that Moscow has failed to produce any evidence to support holding him as a spy.

Speaking to reporters in court Tuesday, Mr. Whelan said that he had been slipped something moments before his arrest by a known member of the Russian Federal Security Service, or FSB, the successor to the Soviet-era KGB.

“I’m not allowed to give you details but I can say that I was set-up,” Mr. Whelan told reporters. “I did not commit a crime. I went to the Kremlin in the morning on a tour. I came back to change to go to a wedding. A person turned up in my room, put something in my pocket and then I was arrested. That person is an FSB officer. It’s someone I’ve known for 10 years. There is absolutely no reason that person should have been in my room.”

“This case is an absurd provocation. No evidence of crime exists,” Mr. Whelan told reporters.

The Russian Foreign Ministry did not immediately return a request for comment.

Mr. Whelan faces a maximum sentence of 20 years imprisonment in Russia if convicted of espionage.

Bipartisan resolutions introduced last month in the House and Senate each urge Russia to provide evidence of Mr. Whelan’s alleged wrongdoing or release him from custody, meanwhile. Combined they currently have 15 co-sponsors.

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