After previously scheduling a hearing on September 27 on the Paul Whelan’s request to be transferred to the United States to serve his remaining term, The Supreme Court of Russia’s Republic of Mordovia has canceled it on Wednesday as they need to prepare for the hearing, Russian media report.
Olga Karlova and Vladimir Zherebenkov, the lawyers of former U.S. Marine who is serving a lengthy prison term in Russia on espionage charges, have initially asked the Moscow City Court to consider their Whelan’s request to be handed over to the US.
But citing jurisdictional issues, the Moscow City Court refused to consider the matter and forwarded it to Mordovia- where Whelan is currently serving his term- a region historically known as the location of Russia’s toughest prisons, including Soviet-era labor camps for political prisoners.
Whelan, who holds US, Canadian, British, and Irish passports, was arrested by the Federal Security Service (FSB) in December 2018 in Moscow on espionage charges under Article 276 of the Russian Criminal Code.
Whelan has rejected the espionage charges and has accused his prison guards of mistreatment, but the Moscow City Court in May 2020 found him guilty and sentenced him to 16 years in a high-security colony in a trial that was condemned as a “mockery of justice” by the United States, that also criticized the Russian authorities for their shameful treatment.
Whelan is one of several Americans to face trial in Russia in recent years, among which is another former US Marine, Trevor Reed, who was sentenced in July 2020 for assaulting two Russian police officers and is serving a nine-year prison term in Mordovia.
Several reports have surfaced recently of a possible swap involving Whelan, Read, and two Russians – arms dealer Viktor Bout and drug smuggler Konstantin Yaroshenko – who are serving lengthy sentences in US prisons, but according to August 25 statement of the Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Yevgeny Ivanov, Washington’s unspecified unconstructive position makes the prisoner swap unlikely.