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30 Aug, 2019 17:11

Ex-US Marine Paul Whelan indicted on spying charges in Russia – lawyer

Ex-US Marine Paul Whelan indicted on spying charges in Russia – lawyer

Paul Whelan, an ex-US Marine suspected of espionage in Russia, has been formally indicted. Whelan was detained on New Year’s Eve in Moscow while receiving a flash drive said to be full of Russian state secrets.

The accused will be presented with the indictment next week, Whelan’s lawyer, Vladimir Zherebenkov, told RIA Novosti on Friday. The date for the beginning of court proceedings remains unclear, as the defendant will have to rely on an interpreter to read the materials of the case, and this might take some time. The suspect denies all the charges and maintains his innocence, the lawyer said.

Whelan was arrested by the Federal Security Service (FSB) in a posh hotel in central Moscow back on December 31 as he received a flash drive, apparently containing state secret materials. According to his defense, the accused was set up by law enforcement.

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Notably, the 48-year-old ex-US Marine, who worked as a security director for BorgWarner, a big Michigan-based car parts manufacturer, has been visiting Russia since 2007. Whelan’s family maintained that the goal of this ill-fated visit was to simply attend a friend’s wedding.

Following his arrest, more details about the suspect started to surface. It turned out that the man received a bad conduct discharge from the Marines back in 2008 over allegations of theft – and the news was actually a surprise for his family. It also emerged that the Canadian-born man holds citizenships of at least four countries – the US, UK, Ireland and Canada. All of the four issued statements on the arrest at the time and rallied in his support.

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A social media page that was reportedly Whelan's raised questions as well. It indicated that the man has had about two dozen ‘friends’ in Russia with apparent military ties, according to a Reuters report.

Despite the calls from abroad to release the ex-marine, Moscow maintained that he was caught “red-handed” and the case against him will go through. If found guilty, Whelan can face from 10 to 20 years behind bars.

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