UK citizen and ex-US Marine spy suspect to remain in Russian custody

UK citizen and ex-US Marine Paul Whelan is to remain in Russian custody after he was arrested in Moscow on suspicion of spying for the US in December last year.

A court in Moscow has ruled that Whelan must remain in custody while he awaits trial.

Whelan holds British, Canadian and Irish nationality was found with a memory stick that contained state secrets, according to his lawyer. However, he had not opened the “thumb drive” and was expecting holiday pictures and videos.

“Paul was actually meant to receive information from an individual that was not classified. These were cultural things, trip to a cathedral, Paul’s holiday. He could not see (the contents) because he was arrested.”

He appeared in court in Moscow on Tuesday to appeal against a decision to deny him bail. He is awaiting trial on espionage charges and, if found guilty, could face up to 20 years in jail.

Whelan insists his innocence, and his family have said that he was visiting Russia over Christmas to attend a wedding. Few details of the case against him have been made public, but his lawyer has said that Mr Whelan was in good spirits and is determined to prove his innocence.

Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt spoke earlier this year saying how he was “extremely worred” about Whelan, and said that “every support” is being provided to him. Hunt also said that Russia cannot use UK citizens as “pawns in diplomatic chess”.

“We are giving every support we can, but we don’t agree with individuals being used in diplomatic chess games. Because it is desperately worrying, not just for the individual but their families, and we are all extremely worried about him and his family as we hear this news.”

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