President Trump’s envoy to Russia made a fresh call Tuesday for the country to free Paul Whelan, an American convicted in Moscow of espionage, after visiting him at a penal colony in the Republic of Mordovia.
“Paul Whelan languishes in a Russian labor camp, unjustly tried and convicted by a Russian court,” Ambassador John J. Sullivan said in a statement after visiting the alleged spy at the “IK-17” penal colony.
“As long as I am here in Russia, as long as I am the U.S. Ambassador to the Russian Federation, I will keep advocating for Paul — for fair treatment, and for his immediate release,” the envoy added.
Mr. Whelan, a 50-year-old former Marine from Michigan, was arrested in Moscow in December 2018 and accused of spying. He was found guilty in June during a closed trial and has maintained he is innocent.
Amb. Sullivan said Mr. Whelan seemed to be in “good spirits” despite currently serving a 16-year sentence at the penal colony as a consequence of the espionage conviction, which he contests as well.
Russian authorities have alleged the former Marine was caught “red-handed” in possession of classified information. They have not offered any evidence to corroborate that claim, however, Amb. Sullivan noted.
“I will continue to call on Russian authorities to correct this miscarriage of justice, to right the wrong and to let Paul go home,” Amb. Sullivan said in the statement.
Mr. Whelan’s twin brother lauded the U.S. Embassy in Moscow later Tuesday morning in light of learning about the visit.
“It is incredible for Paul, and our family, to know that Ambassador Sullivan made such a journey to see Paul,” David Whelan said in a statement. “Their efforts provide Paul with consular support and highlight the ongoing injustice Paul suffers at the hands of the Russian Federation.”