MOSCOW – A Moscow court convicted former U.S. Marine Paul Whelan on charges of espionage on Monday, sentencing him to 16 years of hard labor in a ruling all but certain to further roil the current low ebb in US-Russian relations.
Speaking from a courtroom cage before the decision, Whelan denounced the trial as a politically-motivated “sham trial” and “goat rodeo.”
“This is slimy, greasy, grubby Russian politics. Nothing more. Nothing less,” shouted Whelan to journalists from across the courtroom. “There has been no espionage. There is no evidence.”
Even after the judge read out the sentence in Russian, Whelan was left asking for a translation of what had just transpired but insisted he would appeal the ruling.
The Whelan Affair
Whelan, 50, was arrested by FSB security agents in late December 2018 after allegedly accepting classified materials on a computer thumb drive in a central Moscow hotel.
Whelan has always denied those charges, insisting he was in Moscow for a friends wedding and had accepted the drive from a Russian acquaintance without ever knowing or viewing its contents.
The former Marine, who in addition to U.S. citizenship holds passports from Britain, Canada, and Ireland, has also said he has been mistreated and denied medical treatment throughout his detention.
Whelan on Monday said Russian authorities waited until the last minute to grant him an emergency hernia operation in late May — a middle of the night trip to the hospital that Whelan labeled “meatball surgery” in an apparent knock at the quality of his medical care.
Whelan also said Russian security agents checking him into the medical facility under the assumed named “Mikhail Burbonov.”
“They were worried about U.S. special forces coming to rescue me,” said Whelan. “Thats how paranoid and delusional these people are. Its ridiculous.”
Russias Foreign Ministry had accused Whelan of feigning illness — part of what the ministry said was Whelans playbook training as a U.S. intelligence officer after being caught “red-handed” by Russias security services.
Mockery of justice