- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 5, 2020

Paul Whelan, a U.S. Marine Corps veteran and Michigan resident accused in Russia of espionage, lost on Tuesday his latest bid to be released from a Moscow prison pending trial.

The Moscow City Court upheld an earlier ruling keeping Mr. Whelan, 49, in Russian custody until at least March 29, several news outlets reported after the decision was announced.

Vladimir Zherebenkov, a Russian lawyer representing Mr. Whelan, said he would file another appeal before a higher court, ABC News reported.

The attorney also said he expects Mr. Whelan’s trial to start as soon as late March, the outlet reported, at which point his client will have spent roughly 15 months behind bars.

Asked if he understood the appeals court’s ruling, Mr. Whelan reportedly indicated he had expected to be ordered to remain in Russian custody while awaiting trial.

“I knew the decision before I even came here today,” Mr. Whelan replied, a BBC journalist reported afterward.

Mr. Whelan also reportedly asked the court for a favor as he prepares to spend another birthday behind bars at Moscow’s infamous Lefortovo prison.

“Your honor, March 5 is my 50th birthday. Could I have a cake please?” Mr. Whelan asked the judge at one point, ABC reported.

Mr. Whelan was arrested in Moscow in late 2018, and he was subsequently accused of espionage and has been incarcerated ever since.

Russian officials allege Mr. Whelan was arrested while in possession of a USB drive containing classified information and have claimed he was caught “red-handed.”

No evidence has been produced to corroborate the claims made against Mr. Whelan, however, who has maintained his innocence and insisted he was “set up” by a Russian acquaintance.

“Investigators have shown no evidence — zero,” John Sullivan, President Trump’s ambassador to Russia, said after visiting Mr. Whelan at Lefortovo last month. “It’s time for this nightmare to end, and for Paul to go home.”

More recently, Mr. Whelan’s brother said in a statement this week that his sibling asked staffers of the U.S. Embassy in Moscow to deliver a message on his behalf to the media.

“Here over a year. No evidence. No crime. No medical treatment. Everything is fabricated,” he said in the message relayed by his brother, David Whelan.

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