- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 21, 2020

John Sullivan, the U.S. ambassador to Russia, accused Moscow of making a “mockery of justice” after he was turned away Monday from the trial of jailed American citizen Paul Whelan.

The envoy reiterated concerns about the Russian government’s treatment of Mr. Whelan, a former U.S. Marine accused of espionage, amid his court proceedings taking place in private.

Mr. Sullivan said in a statement that for the second time in two weeks he tried to attend Mr. Whelan’s trial in Moscow but was denied admittance.

“It’s a fundamental human right that anyone accused of a crime is presumed innocent and is tried in a fair impartial and public hearing,” said Mr. Sullivan. “The fact that it is a closed hearing, that it is a secret trial — Paul hasn’t seen the evidence against him — it makes a mockery of justice.”

Mr. Sullivan also said it was “intolerable” and “unacceptable” that Russian authorities have not allowed Mr. Whelan to speak to his relatives or receive medical treatment he needs.

“I have no higher priority as U.S. Ambassador than advocating for the fair treatment of American citizens,” said Mr. Sullivan. “I am here today to stand in solidarity with Paul until he gets the fair treatment that he deserves, as any human being deserves, and that his medical issues are addressed, and he is able to speak to his family.”

Mr. Whelan, 50, was arrested in late 2018 at a hotel in Moscow. He has denied spying and claims to have been set up by an acquaintance he identified as a Russian security officer.

Russian officials have asserted Mr. Whelan was caught “red-handed.” His advocates, including members of Congress and the U.S. State Department, have said that authorities have failed to produce any evidence to substantiate that claim, however.

Mr. Whelan’s trial began behind closed doors last week. He faces up to 20 years in prison if found guilty.

Mr. Sullivan was confirmed in December to succeed Jon Huntsman as Mr. Trump’s ambassador to Russia. He previously served as the president’s deputy secretary of state prior to assuming his current role.

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

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