Russian Court Extends U.S. Citizen’s Detention by Three Months

(Bloomberg) -- A Russian court extended the detention of former U.S. Marine Paul Whelan on spying charges until May 28, declining a request to transfer him to house arrest.

Moscow’s Lefortovo court on Friday ordered Whelan, 48, a U.S. citizen who also holds Irish, British and Canadian passports, to be detained for three months, a court spokeswoman said by phone. He was arrested in December and accused of spying, which he’s denied. He faces a sentence of as long as 20 years in prison if found guilty.

The U.S. embassy has complained it can’t get proper consular access to Whelan. A consular officer visited him on Thursday but the Russian Investigative Committee wouldn’t let Whelan sign a Privacy Act Waiver required by U.S. law to enable officials to provide information about the case on his behalf, embassy spokeswoman Andrea Kalan wrote on Twitter.

The embassy obtained similar waivers in every previous instance involving Americans, but in Whelan’s case “the Investigative Committee is not allowing this to happen,” Kalan said. “Consular access without being able to do true consular support is not real access.”

Whelan’s lawyer and the Investigative Committee spokeswoman didn’t respond to phone calls seeking comment.

‘Innocent People’

The American’s detention came two weeks after Maria Butina, a Russian gun enthusiast, pleaded guilty in the U.S. to conspiring to act as an unregistered foreign agent. After she reached a plea agreement with prosecutors, in which she faces a maximum sentence of five years, President Vladimir Putin said Russia wouldn’t “arrest innocent people simply to exchange them for someone else later on.”

Whelan, who’s the director of global security for Michigan-based auto-parts supplier BorgWarner Inc. is one of two high-profile arrests of U.S. citizens in Russia in recent months. Baring Vostok Capital Partners’ founder Michael Calvey, one of the longest-standing American investors in Russia, was detained in Moscow on Feb. 14 on fraud charges. A court ordered him held in detention until April 13.

The U.S. embassy said in a statement Thursday that Russian authorities still hadn’t allowed officials to visit Calvey, despite multiple requests and a bilateral convention providing for consular access within four days. “We have expressed our strong concern about this delay,” according to the statement.

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