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Politics

American Facing 16 Years for Spying in Russia Won’t Appeal

Updated on

American Facing 16 Years for Spying in Russia Won’t Appeal

  • Paul Whelan’s lawyer says he hopes for swap, Interfax reports
  • Russia has sought return of jailed arms dealer, pilot in past
Paul Whelan hears his verdict in Moscow, on June 15.
Paul Whelan hears his verdict in Moscow, on June 15. Photographer: Kirill Kudryavtsev/AFP via Getty Images
Paul Whelan hears his verdict in Moscow, on June 15.
Photographer: Kirill Kudryavtsev/AFP via Getty Images

Paul Whelan, a former U.S. marine who was convicted of spying in Moscow last week in a case criticized by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, won’t appeal his 16-year sentence, the Interfax news service reported Tuesday.

Whelan declined to appeal because he has no faith in Russian courts and hopes that a deal is in the works to exchange him for Russians jailed in the U.S., according to Interfax, which cited his lawyer Vladimir Zherebenkov.

Interfax previously reported that Russia and the U.S. are discussing a possible swap of Whelan for imprisoned Russians Viktor Bout and Konstantin Yaroshenko, citing a person it didn’t identify. Bout, an arms dealer jailed in 2012, and Yaroshenko, a pilot serving a 20-year sentence for conspiracy to smuggle cocaine, were seized in third countries and brought to the U.S. for trial.

“I think Paul’s decision stands on its face: a lack of trust in the Russian process, and an unwillingness to continue to play a role in these ongoing amateur theatrics,” his brother, David Whelan, said by email. He said he was unaware of any actions to secure Paul’s release.

Zherebenkov was not immediately available for comment.

Whelan, 50, was arrested in December 2018 while attending a wedding in Moscow after receiving a flash drive with “state secrets” that he says he thought contained holiday pictures. His family has said they believe that Russia will try to use him as a bargaining chip to gain U.S. concessions.

(Updates with brother’s comment in fourth paragraph.)