MOSCOW, June 15./TASS/. The Russian Foreign Ministry has dismissed Western media claims about Russia dragging feet in the trial of US national Paul Whelan as absurd and unfounded.
"We hold accusations in western media of ‘stalling’ the trial that started on March 30 as absurd and unfounded. It is known that it took Whelan as long as half-a-year to familiarize himself with court documents, he was in no hurry reading it from September of the previous year until March of this year," the ministry said.
"Despite the difficult sanitary-epidemiological conditions caused by the coronavirus infection, the court procedure was conducted within the established deadlines, in strict compliance with the Russian law and with the necessary proceedings," the ministry said.
In reply to accusations of an excessively harsh verdict that the Moscow City Court pronounced in the case of US national Paul Whelan the Russian Foreign Ministry underscored that in the US decades in prison without the right to pardon are envisaged for espionage. "As for the allegations about injustice or an excessive harshness of the verdict, it is necessary to emphasize that in the US, as well as in other western countries, the punishment for similar deeds envisages decades in prison or even a life sentence, without the right to pardon," the ministry said in a commentary circulated on Monday.
It pointed out that staffers from the embassies of the countries whose citizenships Whelan holds contacted him on a regular basis. "Diplomats from the embassies of the UK, Ireland, Canada and the US can use the right to a consular visit in full. He was offered the opportunity to talk with the relatives on the phone," the ministry added.
It also noted that during Whelan’s stay in a pre-trial detention center, he had been provided with the necessary qualified medical assistance, while on May 28 he was operated on after his condition had worsened due to disease recurrence. Earlier, he had refused to undergo this simple surgical procedure.
On Monday, the Moscow City Court found Whelan guilty of spying against Russia and sentenced him to 16 years in prison. US citizen Paul Whelan, who also holds British, Canadian and Irish citizenship, was detained by the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) on December 28, 2018 in Moscow while on a spy mission. A criminal investigation was launched against him on espionage charges carrying a punishment of up to 20 years behind bars.