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No grounds for keeping suspected spy Paul Whelan in custody, says US Embassy

The embassy recalled he has been in Lefortovo pre-trial detention center for 123 days already

MOSCOW, April 29. /TASS/. The US Embassy in Moscow said on Monday that there were was no evidence against Paul Whelan detained in Russia on suspicion of espionage at the end of 2018.

"Paul Whelan has been in Lefortovo pre-trial detention center for already more than four months, or 123 days to be more exact. No evidence has been presented despite the official statements that he was allegedly caught red handed. If there is no evidence, then there are no grounds for keeping Paul Whelan in custody," the embassy said in a tweet on Monday.

Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) said Paul Whelan was detained in Moscow on December 28, 2018, "while he was on a spy mission." The FSB Investigative Department opened a criminal case under Article 276 of the Russian Criminal Code (espionage), which carries a punishment of 10 to 20 years in prison. Whelan holds citizenship of the US, UK, Ireland and Canada.

On February 22, Moscow’s Lefortovo Court extended Whelan’s custody until May 28. Earlier, the attorney said his client had received secret data on a flash card, while expecting to get open source information of cultural importance.

Whelan, 48, is corporate security director for US automotive parts supplier BorgWarner. According to the Washington Post, he enlisted in the US Marines in 1994 and "rose through the ranks to become a staff sergeant, serving two tours in Iraq, in 2004 and 2006." However, Whelan "was discharged for bad conduct in 2008 after being convicted of several charges related to larceny.".