Russian political prisoner Paul Whelan, a U.S. citizen and former Marine, will reportedly request to serve the remainder of his sentence in the U.S.
Whelan, who was arrested by Russian authorities more than two years ago and sentenced to 16 years in prison last year, will seek to be transferred from Correctional Colony No. 17 in Mordovia, which is known as one of the toughest prisons in Russia, Radio Free Europe reported. Whelan has alleged that prison guards have mistreated him and recently spent three weeks at a medical facility for injuries he obtained at a labor camp, his brother recently told CNN.
“We are preparing a petition to the Moscow City Court about transferring Whelan to serve his sentence in the United States,” Whelan’s lawyer Olga Karlova said on Wednesday, according to Radio Free Europe.
President Joe Biden discussed Whelan and other political prisoners during his June summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin, CNBC reported. Putin and Secretary of State Antony Blinken have also separately acknowledged that a potential prisoner swap was on the table and could be negotiated.
“To the families, detained Americans came up and we discussed it, and we are going to follow through with that discussion. I am not going to walk away on that,” Biden told reporters on the final day of the summit.
Russian law enforcement arrested Whelan on espionage charges in December 2018 and sentenced him in June 2020. Whelan allegedly possessed a flash drive containing classified Russian information, which he said was given to him by a Russian acquaintance, according to Reuters.
Former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo slammed the conviction as “appalling” and said the trial was conducted in secret and without the proper allowances of witnesses.
Whelan has maintained his innocence and has called upon Biden to resolve the situation “as quickly as possible,” according to CNN.
“It’s pretty simple. There was no crime. There was no evidence. The secret trial was a sham,” Whelan told CNN in a phone interview from a labor camp last month. “This was done purely for political motive.”
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