Paul Whelan is currently being held in Moscow on charges of espionage
Paul Whelan, an Irish passport holder who is currently being held in Russia on suspicion of spying, is appealing to American and Irish governments for help.
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Reuters reports that Whelan, a former US Marine, holds American, British, Canadian, and Irish passports. A website supporting his release says: "Paul was born in Canada to British parents who are of Irish descent. In the early 1970s, he moved to the US and lived in Ann Arbor, Michigan with his family.
In December 2018, Whelan was arrested in Moscow on charges of espionage, which he claims is an "absurd political kidnapping." Whelan's lawyers assert that he was framed when he was given a flash drive that he thought contained holiday photos, but actually contained classified information.
If found guilty, Whelan could face up to 20 years in a Russian prison.
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On Thursday, Whelan spoke with reporters in Moscow during a hearing in which he was appealing the extension of his custody through August 29, an appeal that the court ultimately denied.
From inside a glass cage, Whelan said: “Mr. President (Trump), we cannot keep America great unless we aggressively protect and defend American citizens wherever they are in the world.”
“Please tweet your intent on this,” Whelan said, adding “I am asking the leaders and governments in Ottawa, Dublin, London, and Washington for their help and public statements of support.”
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ABC World News Tonight tweeted a video of Whelan’s comments on Thursday:
NEW: American Paul Whelan, held in Russia for spy charges he denies, made an emotional plea in a Moscow court, calling on President Trump to “keep America great” by coming to his aide and revealing his detention is “work related.” https://t.co/LVprELraVe pic.twitter.com/UgPbpRTglN— World News Tonight (@ABCWorldNews) June 20, 2019
Paul's brother David Whelan also tweeted:
#PaulWhelan has already spent nearly 6 months in a Russian prison while the FSB "investigator" looks for evidence. I wonder if there's a Russian equivalent to "can't find his way out of paper bag". It's all about coercing a confession now. https://t.co/yMiQlSkioy— David Whelan (@davidpwhelan) June 20, 2019
Whelan's family have been sharing updates on the Free Paul Whelan Twitter feed and website. They are appealing for donations to help with legal fees on their GoFundMe.