Russia on December 3 accused a former U.S. Marine it has held for almost a year on spying charges of faking illness in custody and lying about his ill-treatment to bring attention to his case.
Paul Whelan, who holds U.S., British, Canadian, and Irish passports, was accused of espionage after agents from Russia’s Federal Security Service detained him in a Moscow hotel room in December last year.
Whelan, who is being held in pretrial detention, denies Moscow’s allegations and says accusations against him are politically motivated.
At court hearings, Whelan accused prison guards of ill treatment during his incarceration and said that his complaints are systematically ignored.
In August, the U.S. Embassy to Moscow demanded immediate access to Whelan after his lawyer said he was suffering from a groin hernia that prison authorities were aggravating.
However, the Russian Foreign Ministry said on December 3 that Whelan’s allegations of ill-treatment had not checked out and that diplomats were being granted regular access to him in custody.
“They [the diplomats] know perfectly well that the public statements by the accused about certain abuses and even threats [made to his] life in pre-trial detention are nothing more than the defense’s provocatory line to help artificially create noise around his person,” the ministry said in a statement.
It said the detention facility’s doctors as well as a special clinic had not found Whelan to have any serious ailment.
“So there is no threat to Whelan’s health, and the pretending which he is periodically resorting to is apparently part of the training for U.S. intelligence officers,” the ministry said.
In a series of tweets, Rebecca Ross, the U.S. Embassy’s spokeswoman, said that Whelan’s health “is deteriorating, and he is in need of appropriate and qualified medical attention.”
She added that the embassy had “asked many times for an independent medical examination which would clear up all questions about the state of his health.”
Ross said Whelan “is not a spy,” accusing the Russian Foreign Ministry of “distorting the facts.”
“Enough is enough. Let Paul go home,” she tweeted.