A court in Russia will hold a hearing next month into an appeal by Paul Whelan, a former U.S. Marine who is serving a lengthy prison term in Russia on espionage charges he calls trumped up, over his possible transfer home.
Whelan's lawyer, Olga Karlova, said on October 18 that an appeals court in the city of Nizhny Novgorod will hold the hearing on November 8.
The appeal is over the refusal by the Supreme Court of Russia's Republic of Mordovia to hear his request to be transferred to the United States to serve out the rest of his sentence.
According to Karlova, Whelan's defense team views the decision by Mordovia's Supreme Court as a move to "evade the implementation of justice," which in turn leads to "an expanded and excessive violation of the rights of my client, who has already been deprived of justice."
Last month, Mordovia’s Supreme Court sent Whelan's request back to the Justice Ministry "to obtain necessary information in accordance with clauses of an international agreement of the Russian Federation, as well as for preliminary coordination [of the issue] with a competent organ of the United States."
The defense team initially asked the Moscow City Court to consider Whelan's request to be handed over to the United States to finish serving his sentence there. But the court refused to consider the matter over jurisdictional issues and forwarded it to Mordovia, where Whelan is currently incarcerated.
Mordovia, a region located about 350 kilometers east of Moscow, is historically known as the location of Russia's toughest prisons, including Soviet-era labor camps for political prisoners.
Whelan was arrested in Moscow in December 2018 on espionage charges and sentenced to 16 years in prison in May 2020 following a trial that was condemned by the United States as a "mockery of justice."
A holder of U.S., Canadian, British, and Irish passports, Whelan has rejected the espionage charges and has accused his prison guards of mistreatment.
The United States has also criticized Russian authorities for their "shameful treatment" of Whelan.
Whelan was head of global security at a U.S. auto-parts supplier when he was arrested. He and his relatives insist he visited Russia to attend a wedding.
He is one of several Americans to face trial in Russia in recent years on charges that their families, supporters, and in some cases the U.S. government, have said are trumped up.
Another former U.S. Marine, Trevor Reed, is serving a nine-year prison term in Mordovia as well. He was sentenced in July 2020 on charges of assaulting two Russian police officers.
The U.S. government and Reed deny the allegations and questioned the fairness of his judicial proceedings.
Reports have surfaced several times of a possible swap involving Whelan, Reed, and two Russians -- arms dealer Viktor Bout and drug smuggler Konstantin Yaroshenko -- who are serving lengthy sentences in U.S. prisons.