At a hearing on Friday, Whelan accused the FSB investigator of “insulting my dignity and threatening my life” and asked that Alexei Khizhnyak be taken off the case.
Whelan, speaking from a cage inside the courtroom, told reporters that he believes that his case is retaliation for sanctions and that he is a victim of political kidnapping and ransom. He said his isolation in detention is the Russian government’s way of wearing him down so he will talk to them. Paul further said that he has not been given medical or dental treatment, has not been allowed to shower for two weeks and has not received correspondence and books for two months.
He said, “I have been threatened. My personal safety has been threatened. There are abuses and harassment that I am constantly subjected to.”
Whelan’s attorney, Vladimir Zherebenkov, told the Russian news agency Tass that there was no violence on the part of the prosecution and that Whelan was simply talking about the tough conditions of detention. Zherebenkov also said they would appeal the decision to extend Whelan’s detention.
The judge informed Whelan that, according to Russian law, he can ask for court officials or the prosecutors to be replaced but not the investigator. Per Reuters, Whelan said, “I understand that but what am I supposed to do if my rights are being violated?”
Whelan faces 20 years in jail if convicted of espionage. He was detained by the FSB, the Russian Federal Security Service, when he was handed a flash drive containing classified information by an acquaintance. The former Marine was in Moscow to attend the wedding of friends when he was detained in December. He believes he was set up by an acquaintance and the Russian government, his lawyer said.
David Whelan, Paul’s brother, told Reuters that his brother has been falsely accused and said, “Paul’s defense team has been clear in their communications to us that Paul is being held, and coerced, in order to gain a confession.”
Michael Yoder, a US diplomat who was present at today’s hearing, told reporters that the comments by Whelan are of “grave concern”. He said, “I guarantee you we will protest this fact with the Russian government and we will request the opportunity to speak frankly with him about these threats.”
Paul Whelan, who holds Irish, British, and Canandian passports in addition to being an American citizen, asked reporters to go to London, Washington, and Dublin on his behalf.