Live outside Moscow court as Paul Whelan trial reaches verdict: stake-out
The trial in the case of the former American Marine is being held behind closed doors
Court in Moscow began hearing the case of former US Marine Paul Whelan, who is accused of espionage.
The process began about two weeks later than originally planned, due to tough measures to combat coronavirus in the Russian capital.
Whelan’s lawyers on Monday asked for a new adjournment of the proceedings until the end of the self-isolation regime introduced in Moscow, but the court decided to resume the hearing in a week..
One of the lawyers, Olga Karlova, told CBS News that at the first hearing, the prosecutor’s office formally presented its charges, and Whelan himself declared his innocence..
According to Karlova, her client believes that he was framed, and the whole case is a provocation. She noted the good mood of her client.
Whelan, 50, was arrested at a hotel in central Moscow in December 2018. Russian investigators say he was caught red-handed while handing over a flash drive containing classified information. Whelan’s family says that he came to Russia for a friend’s wedding and believed that vacation photos were recorded on the flash drive given to his acquaintances..
Another lawyer, Vladimir Zherebenkov, expressed concern about Whelan’s health. He said that the American, who had previously been diagnosed with a hernia, asked the court to admit a doctor from the US Embassy to him, Interfax reports..
Hearings on Monday were held behind closed doors, as the case was classified by the Russian authorities. Journalists and US Ambassador to Russia John Sullivan were not allowed into the courthouse due to restrictions due to coronavirus.
US officials have repeatedly called for Whelan’s immediate release. The US Embassy criticized the treatment of the prisoner by the Russian authorities, who is being held in the infamous Lefortovo SIZO and who has not been allowed to call his family since his arrest..
The prosecution is expected to begin presenting its arguments and calling witnesses next week, lawyers say..
In addition to the American one, Whelan also holds British, Canadian and Irish passports. If convicted of espionage, he faces up to 20 years in prison.
At the time of his arrest, Whelan was director of global security at BorgWarner, Michigan, which supplies auto parts. According to the military, he served in the US Marine Corps for 14 years, but was fired in 2008 for misconduct. In 2004-2006, he served in Iraq for several months.
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