What you need to know about Paul Whelan, captured by Russia

AAs Americans celebrate a deal between Russia and the US that secured the release of athlete Brittney Griner, the family of another inmate in Russia remain concerned.

Paul Whelan, a 52-year-old former resident of Michigan, was first detained by Russian authorities in December 2018 and imprisoned on espionage charges. He remains in prison despite US efforts to free him.

In February, Russia arrested WNBA star Griner on drug possession charges; airport authorities accused her of carrying hashish oil in her luggage and she was later sentenced to nine years in prison. Griner’s high-profile imprisonment also drew attention to Whelan’s case by building public pressure for the release of detained civilians in Russia.

On Thursday morning, President Biden announced in remarks at the White House that Griner would be released in the US. of conspiracy to kill Americans.

Biden expressed disappointment that Whelan would remain behind bars, but insisted that the US would also separately continue its efforts to secure his release. In recent weeks, the US had publicly expressed concern for Whelan when his family shared that they were unable to reach him.

Here’s what you need to know about Paul Whelan and his continued imprisonment.

Who is Paul Whelan?

Whelan, a United States Navy veteran, former deputy sheriff, and corporate security expert, holds American, Irish, British, and Canadian nationalities.

Between 1990 and 2008, Whelan served several tours in Iraq as an active duty reservist.

In 2020, Whelan was sentenced to 16 years in prison by Russian authorities on espionage charges. Whelan previously said he was framed and that a person he thought was his friend unknowingly put a USB stick containing classified information in his pocket, according to the BBC.

Whelan and the US government have denied the allegations against him. “Russia says it caught James Bond on a spy mission,” Whelan said ahead of his sentencing, the BBC reported. “In reality, they kidnapped Mr. Bean on vacation.”

David Whelan, Paul Whelan’s brother, told CNN that his brother had been in Russia for a wedding and made several trips to Russia in the past.

What was Whelan’s captivity like?

Whelan told CNN earlier in 2021 that he worked in a “sweatshop” while in prison.

He also spent about a month in solitary confinement, according to CNN.

Has Biden given updates on Whelan?

Biden said in White House televised remarks on Thursday that the trade was “not a choice of which American to take home.”

“Unfortunately, for totally illegal reasons, Russia is handling Paul’s case differently from Brittney’s,” he said. “Although we have not yet managed to get Paul released, we are not giving up. We will never give up.”

How did Paul Whelan’s family react?

Despite reassurances from the president that the US would continue to fight for Whelan’s freedom, his family said they felt “devastated” at his continued imprisonment.

“Every time an American comes home, it’s great news… We do worry about what’s in Paul’s future. I think it has become clear that the US has no concessions that Russia wants for Paul,” said David Whelan, Paul Whelan’s brother. said on CNN.

In a statement by e-mail to the mediaDavid Whelan told how his brother was starting to feel hopeful about his release.

“I can’t even imagine how Paul will feel when he learns. Paul has worked so hard to survive almost four years of this injustice. His hopes had skyrocketed in the knowledge that, for once, the US government would take concrete steps toward his release. He had been worried about where he would live when he returned to the US.

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Write to Sanya Mansoor at [email protected]

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