The defense team of Paul Whelan, a former U.S. Marine who is serving a lengthy prison term in Russia on espionage charges he calls trumped up, has requested he be handed over to the United States to finish serving his sentence.
Whelan’s lawyer, Vladimir Zherebenkov, told Russian media he has sent a request to the High Court of Mordovia, the region where Whelan is serving his sentence. The court has yet to set a date for the hearing, he said.
Zherebenkov had earlier asked the Moscow City Court to consider handing his client over to the United States to continue serving his sentence, but the court refused to consider the matter and forwarded it to Mordovia.
Whelan, who holds U.S., British, Canadian, and Irish passports, was detained by Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) in Moscow on December 28, 2018, while he was in the country to attend the wedding of a friend, and accused of espionage.
Russian security forces say he took possession of a flash drive with photos and names of students from a school for border guards, a claim he calls “ludicrous.”
He was sentenced to 16 years in a high-security penal colony.
The United States continues to call for his release.