American Paul Whelan, Held In Russia On Spy Charges, Is Sentenced To 16 Years
June 15, 20206:16 AM ET
U.S. citizen Paul Whelan attends a sentencing hearing on Monday at the Moscow City Court on charges of espionage against Russia.Anton Novoderezhkin/TASS via Getty Images
Paul Whelan, a U.S. citizen who was arrested in Moscow in 2018 on charges of espionage, has been found guilty in a closed trial and sentenced to 16 years in prison in a case that has strained relations between the two countries.
Secrecy has shrouded the case since the December 2018 arrest of Whelan in his Moscow hotel room. The case of the 50-year-old former U.S. Marine who holds passports from the U.S., Canada, the United Kingdom and Ireland, has become a thorn in the side of U.S.-Russia relations.
Days after his arrest, Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) said in a statement that he had been detained while on a “spy mission.” Later, officials said he was caught with a flash drive containing classified information.
Whelan pleaded not guilty and has denied the charges of espionage, maintaining that he was set up and that he was given a flash drive by an acquaintance that he thought contained family photos.
The prosecution said Whelan held the rank of “at least colonel” with the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency.
Sign Up For The NPR Daily Newsletter
Catch up on the latest headlines and unique NPR stories, sent every weekday.E-mail address