Man wor­ries over twin brother de­tained in Rus­sia

A Rus­sian news agency said the brother has been ar­rested, charged with es­pi­onage

StarMetro Toronto - - TORONTO - Jeremy Grimaldi thes­tar.com/gta

The Amer­i­can ar­rested in Rus­sia on al­le­ga­tions of es­pi­onage has a twin in New­mar­ket hop­ing to get his brother home safely.

David Whe­lan said his brother, Paul, 48, an Amer­i­can from Novi, Mich., stopped com­mu­ni­cat­ing with his fam­ily af­ter Dec. 28, when he was in Moscow for a friend’s wed­ding.

A Rus­sian news agency re­ported Thurs­day that Whe­lan has been for­mally charged with es­pi­onage, mov­ing the case into Rus­sia’s jus­tice sys­tem and pos­si­bly deep­en­ing the diplo­matic ten­sions with the United States. The In­ter­fax news agency re­port on Whe­lan’s sta­tus could not be in­de­pen­dently ver­i­fied.

Rus­sian lawyer Vladimir Zherebenkov, who was ap­pointed to rep­re­sent Whe­lan, was quoted as say­ing the Amer­i­can will re­main in cus­tody in Moscow un­til at least Feb. 28. It was un­clear whether court pro­ceed­ing could be- gin be­fore that date, or where Whe­lan could be held af­ter Fe­bru­ary.

“His well- be­ing is good. He’s mak­ing jokes,” state-run me­dia quoted Zherebenkov as say­ing. Whe­lan will stay “quar­an­tined” at Moscow’s Le­for­tovo de­ten­tion fa­cil­ity be­fore be­ing trans­ferred to a gen­eral cell af­ter Rus­sia marks Ortho­dox Christ­mas on Jan. 7, ac­cord­ing to Zherebenkov.

The Whe­lans learned through the in­ter­net that the for­mer Ma­rine, who has com­pleted sev­eral tours in Iraq, had been ar­rested. A Rus­sian news agency said Paul could face up to 20 years in prison.

David Whe­lan ap­peared on CBC and CNN ear­lier this week to dis­cuss the ar­rest and speak about the kind of per­son his brother is, sug­gest­ing Paul was con­cerned about mun­dane de­tails such as his par­ents slip­ping on the ice or his dog’s trip to the vet­eri­nar­ian, rather than in­ter­na­tional pol­i­tics, prior to his trip East.

“Paul’s a kind soul, he’s very gen­er­ous, he’s no­to­ri­ous among my kids for his huge belly laugh,” he told CNN’S In­side Pol­i­tics.

He added that Paul, who cur­rently works in cor­po­rate se­cu­rity, had gone to Rus­sia to help other Amer­i­cans at the wed­ding nav­i­gate Moscow and its ex­ten­sive metro sys- tem. “Paul’s a very ca­pa­ble per­son ... he’s not the type of per­son who would stum­ble into a strange en­vi­ron­ment or make poor choices that cause him risk,” David added.

In a Twit­ter post by David, the Whe­lan fam­ily re­leased a state­ment say­ing how they are deeply con­cerned for Paul’s safety and well-be­ing.

“His in­no­cence is un­doubted and we trust that his rights will be re­spected,” it con­tin­ues.

Nei­ther David nor Mike Pom­peo, the U.S. Sec­re­tary of State, would spec­u­late about whether the ar­rest might be re­tal­i­a­tion for the Amer­i­can prose­cu­tion of ac­cused Rus­sian spy Maria Butina, who re­cently pleaded guilty of con­spir­ing to act as a clan­des­tine for­eign agent.

CON­TRIB­UTED

David Whe­lan said his brother, Paul (shown in photo), stopped com­mu­ni­cat­ing with his fam­ily af­ter Dec. 28, when he was in Moscow for a friend’s wed­ding.

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