A Russian court on Monday sentenced former U.S. Marine Paul Whelan to 16 years in a penal colony for spying in a case that weighed on relations with Washington and fueled speculation about a prisoner swap.
The Moscow City Court found Whelan guilty of having received classified information when he received a sign that read "Sham Trial!" Stood in the dock. and asked US President Donald Trump to intervene in the case.
The trial was "slimy, greasy Russian politics, nothing more, nothing less," he said.
Whelan, 50, has been in a Moscow prison since his arrest in December 2018. His trial was held behind closed doors on charges of obtaining state secrets.
Throughout the process, he remained innocent, saying he was framed and compared himself to the unfortunate comedy character Mr Bean.
"Russia thought they caught James Bond on a spy mission. In fact, they kidnapped Mr. Bean on vacation," he said.
Whelan says he was arrested during a visit to Moscow to attend a wedding when he took a USB drive from a friend who thought it contained vacation photos.
Prosecutors had asked the judge to sentence Whelan to 18 years in a strict regime penal colony, shortly before the maximum 20 years sentence for the charges.
& # 39; No Evidence & # 39;
The US ambassador to Moscow, John Sullivan, condemned the process as unfair and without transparency.
"I am disappointed and outraged at what I just heard," he told reporters in court.
"(Whelan was sentenced to 16 years in prison without proof.
"I cannot say that I am surprised. This is the direction in which this case went from the beginning," he added.
The prosecutor summarized last month that Whelan had attempted to obtain information that was a state secret and could affect Russia's security, Whelan's lawyer Vladimir Zherebenkov told reporters.
The prosecutor claimed that Whelan was an officer – "at least a colonel" – with the US intelligence agency, the lawyer said.
Whelan's family had said before the verdict that a guilty verdict was a foregone conclusion.
After Monday's judgment, his brother David said in a statement that his family would continue to fight for his release and criticized the court's politically motivated judgment.
"We hoped that the court could show some independence, but in the end Russian judges are political, not legal," he said.
Whelan was dishonorably dismissed as a navy before working as head of global security at a U.S. auto parts maker.
There have been suggestions that Whelan – who also has British, Canadian and Irish passports – could be returned to the United States in a prisoner swap.
Whelan's lawyer said Monday that Russian intelligence agencies are considering an exchange with two Russians detained in the United States, including pilot Konstantin Yaroshenko, who is detained for drug smuggling.
David Whelan, the brother, said recently that the family hoped that a conviction would allow Russia and the United States "to begin discussing Paul's release immediately".
Whelan had complained of ill-treatment in prison and underwent surgery in a Moscow hospital at the end of last month, which his family said was a child's surgery.
The US embassy criticized the Russian authorities for waiting until his condition was "life-threatening to provide medical care", while the Russian State Department described the procedure as "simple".
(Except for the headline, this story was not edited by NDTV staff and published from a syndicated feed.)