- The Washington Times - Friday, January 17, 2020

The Trump administration faced scrutiny Friday from relatives of Paul Whelan, a U.S. Marine Corps veteran imprisoned in Russia for more than a year now on suspicion of spying.

Mr. Whelan’s family members called out the Trump administration and specifically Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo over the Michigan resident remaining behind bars in Moscow.

“He has been held at Lefortovo prison for 386 days,” Whelan family members wrote in an email. “Despite his public pleas for help and support, no word from Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. Silence from President Donald Trump’s administration. More than a year ago, Secretary Pompeo stated that he would seek Paul’s release if the charges are unfounded. He has yet to take any action.”

Mr. Whelan, 49, has been jailed in Russia since being arrested at a Moscow hotel in late 2018 and accused of espionage. He has denied spying and has said he was “set up.”

Addressing the situation days later in early 2019, Mr. Pompeo that the U.S. would demand Mr. Whelan’s “immediate return” if it determines that his detention is not appropriate.

More than a year later, Mr. Whelan continues to be jailed in Moscow without Russian prosecutors having presented any evidence to substantiate their allegations of espionage.

The State Department and several members of Congress have asked the Russian government in the interim to either show cause for jailing Mr. Whelan or to release him from custody.

Mr. Pompeo said last month that he discussed Mr. Whelan during a bilateral meeting held with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in D.C., telling reporters afterward that “bringing home our citizens abroad as soon as possible is one of President Trump’s highest priorities.”

He presented no rebuttal when his counterpart slammed Mr. Whelan moments later as “arrogant” while defending Moscow’s ongoing detainment of the jailed America, however.

“Unlike the silence from Washington, Paul has continued to advocate on his own behalf,” the Whelans wrote Friday. “If the American government will not speak up for him, Paul will need to continue to do so for himself.”

The State Department did not immediately return a message requesting comment.

Russian officials have said that Mr. Whelan was arrested while carrying a USB drive containing classified information. Mr. Whelan has stated that it had been slipped into his pockets moments earlier by an acquaintance he identified as being employed by Russian security services.

“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 told reporters at a pretrial hearing held in Moscow last year. “This is a dog and pony show. It’s a kangaroo court. And it just continues. It’s ridiculous.”

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