The lawyer for Paul Whelan, the U.S. citizen accused of being a Russian spy, said Tuesday that classified material was found in Whelan’s possession when he was arrested in the Russian capital.
The American was arrested in Moscow late last month on suspicion of carrying out an act of espionage, Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) has said. The evidence found with him constitutes “state secrets,” his lawyer Vladimir Zherebenkov said.
The lawyer further said his client was given a flash drive which he did not inspect on the presumption that it contained vacation photographs. Zherebenkov also maintained that Whelan had no knowledge whatsoever of what was on the flash drive, adding that he “does not admit guilt.”
Whelan has been denied bail and is to remain in a Moscow detention center until at least February 28. His defense team, Zherebenkov said, has only been given about 5% of the contents of the thumb drive. The lawyer added that he did not believe his client’s case was politically motivated.
The family of the detained American said he was in Russia on vacation, CNN reports. He arrived in Moscow on December 22 for a wedding, his brother said, but didn’t attend the wedding. The newlyweds filed a missing-person report and shortly after his arrest was announced by the FSB, Russia’s domestic intelligence agency.
Since then, Whelan has been detained in the Lefortovo prison in Moscow and his state assigned lawyer Zherebenkov says he filed an appeal against the detention in early January, saying it was unwarranted and excessive.
The American could face up to 20 years in prison should he be found guilty.
Whelan served 14 years in the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve and completed two Iraq tours, in 2004 and 2006. In 2008, he was discharged for bad conduct. Court documents show that he was convicted at a special court-martial on an attempted larceny charge, CNN adds.
During his 2006 military leave Whelan spent a lot of time in Russia.