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British citizen Paul Whelan held in Russian Federation over 'spying for the West'

Paul Whelan

Whelan, a MI native, was arrested last Friday by members of the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) who accused him of being on a "spy mission", and he has since been detained at Lefortovo Prison in Moscow. Whelan, who has extensive contacts with officials at Russian civil and military institutions, and is now detained in a Moscow prison, denies the allegations - and given he has a court-martial for larceny, he would have been unlikely to be hired by any us intelligence agency. "His innocence is undoubted and we trust that his rights will be respected", the family said in a statement. Whelan, the FSB claimed, had been "caught spying" in Moscow.

Whelan hadn't been in touch with his family since his December 28 arrest, his brother David said on Twitter.

In 2016, Izvestia, a Kremlin-aligned news outlet, reported there were 13 USA citizens in Russian jails at the time.

The news site quoted a Russian lawyer representing Whelan as saying he could not discuss the case due to a non-disclosure agreement, but that his client was hoping for an objective investigation, and the possibility of parole pending trial. Whelan was an administrative clerk and administrative chief and deployed for the war against Iraq for several months in 2004 and 2006. Instead, many suspect that the arrest was retribution for the detention of a 30-year-old Russian woman named Maria Butina, who has pleaded guilty to conspiracy for attempting to infiltrate Republican political circles on behalf of the Russian government. Paul Whelan had traveled to Russian Federation in the past for work and to visit friends he had met on social networks, his brother said.

However it also emerged that Whelan has had a previous brush with the law, as the Marine Corps on Wednesday released details of his service record.

The Russian spying charges carry a prison sentence of up to 20 years.

This undated photo provided by the Whelan family shows Paul Whelan in Iceland. "Our goal is to get him home", David Whelan said.

Although the exact facts of the indictment are not known, Whelan has been to Russian Federation many times.

Earlier on Wednesday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the United States will "demand his immediate return" if his detention is "not appropriate". The company does not have any facilities in Russia but has supplied Russian truckmaker Kamaz PJSC with technology for over 15 years.