‘I think it's ridiculous’ – brother of American Paul Whelan on his detainment in Russia
“I think it's ridiculous. I don't think there's any way that my brother Paul is a spy,” David Whelan told RT’s Ruptly news video agency in Toronto.
Paul Whelan was detained late in December, with Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB), stating he was caught right during “the act of spying.” The man reportedly received a flash drive with a list of Russian intelligence operatives.
While such an exchange might have took place indeed, it’s unlikely Paul engaged in such illicit activities willingly, David believes.
Paul might have accepted a flash drive if someone gave him something, but he wouldn't have knowingly accepted one that had confidential or secure information on it.
To prove that his brother is not a spy, Whelan brought up his openly conducted activities on social media and vigorous travels, which supposedly don’t correspond with the behavior of a spy. The information about Paul, emerging in the media, “invades his privacy,” yet it seems to be the only way to prove his innocence, according to David.
Anybody who has that sort of social media profiles, travel activity that he's done couldn't possibly be a spy.
“So while it invades his privacy and it will be hard when he returns, I think it will probably help in the short term to have him come home,” David added.Also on rt.com ‘Caught in the act of spying’: US citizen detained in Moscow ahead of New Year’s Eve celebrations
The news about Paul’s detention was met with a “mixed reaction” within the family, as at least it meant he “was going to be alive,” David stated. On the other hand, it stirred up a “lot of concern because he is in a Russian prison.”
The accused spy has already faced certain inconveniences in prison, his brother revealed, adding that “it’s hard to be in a prison like Lefortovo.” The Lefortovo prison, built in Moscow over a century ago, is a detention center, where the accused await trial.
“He didn't have his eye glasses and he wasn't able to get them because he didn't know the Russian to ask for them, and he didn't have access to personal supplies either. So that was all very frustrating,” David said.
Holding multiple passports has surely came in handy for Paul Whelan, as he has applied for consular access from all four countries simultaneously. It had been revealed earlier that the man, who used to serve with the US Marine Corps, holds British, Irish and Canadian citizenships in addition to the American one.
“Right now, the US embassy has seen him and they have seen him once, and they hope to see him again,” David said.
Russia has said it sticks strictly to all the international rules, and the consular access requests are discussed individually with each of the aforementioned nations. Following the detention of Whelan, Moscow has faced a barrage of accusations – including from the UK Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt – that the man has become a “pawn” for the Kremlin’s “spy game.”
Some even suggested that Whelan was simply grabbed to be swapped for Maria Butina – the Russian student, jailed in the US, who’s facing charges of acting as an unregistered foreign agent.
Moscow maintains that it’s way too early to talk about any “swaps” and that a proper investigation and procedure must be observed first.
“In Russia we never use people as pawns in diplomatic games. In Russia we conduct counterintelligence activity against those suspected of espionage. That is done regularly,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters, commenting on Hunt’s remarks.
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