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Ex-US marine who has Irish passport jailed by Russia after 'sham' spy trial

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Convicted: Paul Whelan. REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov

Convicted: Paul Whelan. REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov

REUTERS

Convicted: Paul Whelan. REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov

A Russian court has convicted an Irish-American former marine of spying for the United States, sentencing him to 16 years in jail and sparking outrage in Washington.

Paul Whelan (50) was detained by agents from Russia's Federal Security Service in a Moscow hotel room on December 28, 2018, as he prepared to attend a wedding. He holds Irish, US, British and Canadian passports.

Russia says Whelan was caught with a computer flash drive containing classified information. Whelan, who pleaded not guilty, said he was set up in a sting operation and thought the drive, given to him by a Russian acquaintance, contained holiday photos.

"This is all political theatre," said Whelan, who watched proceedings from a glass box inside the Moscow courtroom.

He told the judge he had not understood the verdict because proceedings were conducted without translation.

Whelan had held up a piece of paper denouncing the proceedings as a "sham trial" and asked for US President Donald Trump, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, UK and Canadian prime ministers Boris Johnson and Justin Trudeau to take "decisive action".

Whelan's lawyer, Vladimir Zherebenkov, said an appeal was planned. Questioning the court's independence, Whelan's family said in a statement: "Russian judges are political not legal entities."

In a statement to the Irish Independent, a spokesperson for the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade said the case was being watched.

"We are closely monitoring recent developments in Mr Whelan's case and will continue to provide all possible consular assistance as appropriate. It is the policy of the department not to comment on the details of individual consular cases," the spokesperson added.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the US was "outraged" by the decision.

"The treatment of Paul Whelan has been appalling," said Mr Pompeo.

"Russia failed to provide Mr Whelan with a fair hearing before an independent and impartial tribunal; and during his detention has put his life at risk by ignoring his long-standing medical condition; and unconscionably kept him isolated from family and friends."

John Sullivan, US Ambassador to Russia, said no evidence had been produced to prove Whelan's guilt during what he called a mockery of justice.

Mr Zherebenkov said Whelan was told when he was detained he would be part of a prisoner swap with the US.

The Russian Foreign Ministry said it had proposed detailed prisoner swaps to Washington many times.

Irish Independent