Foreign Desk Report
MOSCOW: A Russian court on Monday sentenced former US marine Paul Whelan to 16 years in a penal colony for espionage in a case that strained ties with Washington and fuelled speculation of a prisoner swap.
Moscow City Court found Whelan guilty of receiving classified information as he stood in the dock with a sign that read “Sham trial!” and pleaded for US President Donald Trump to intervene in the case. The court process is “slimy, greasy Russian politics nothing more, nothing less,” he said.
Whelan, 50, has been held in a Moscow jail since his arrest in December 2018 and his trial was held behind closed doors because of the accusations of seeking to obtain state secrets. Throughout the trial he maintained his innocence, saying he was framed and comparing himself to the hapless comedy character Mr Bean.
“Russia thought they caught James Bond on a spy mission, in reality they abducted Mr Bean on holiday,” he said. Whelan says he was detained on a visit to Moscow to attend a wedding when he took a USB drive from an acquaintance thinking it contained holiday photographs.