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House calls on Russia to release Paul Whelan or else provide evidence of wrongdoing

The House on Tuesday passed a resolution by voice vote calling on the Russian government to provide evidence of wrongdoing or else release former U.S. Marine Paul Whelan

Whelan was arrested in December 2018 and has since been held in Russian custody over allegations of espionage. He has denied any misconduct, arguing the country is retaliating for sanctions levied in response to Moscow’s interference in the 2016 election. 

The resolution, spearheaded by Rep. Haley Stevens (D-Mich.), includes language calling for Russia to “provide unrestricted consular access to Paul Whelan while he remains in detention” and ensure due process. It also “expresses sympathy” to Whelan’s family.

The measure calls for President Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to up pressure on the Russian government to ensure a transparent judicial process is provided. 

“By bringing up my resolution today, H.Res. 552, we are making clear to the Russian government and President Putin that Congress will not tolerate the indefinite detention of a U.S. Citizen without evidence,” Stevens said on the floor.  

“We have repeatedly asked the Russian government to provide Paul with a fair and transparent judicial process to no avail. The State Department has been unwavering in their work on Paul’s behalf, especially [former] Ambassador [Jon] Huntsman. The Russian government has not provided timely updates about Paul’s case. They have not let him select his own attorney, and they have not provided unrestricted consular access. Next week will be Paul’s fourth pretrial detention hearing — enough is enough.” 

Huntsman, who officially left his post at the beginning of the month, was a strong advocate for Whelan’s release, having visited him in Russian custody shortly after his arrest. 

Pompeo has also called for Russia to release information on why Whelan is being held. 

“We’ve made clear to the Russians our expectation that we will learn more about the charges, come to understand what it is he’s been accused of, and if the detention is not appropriate, we will demand his immediate return,” Pompeo said earlier this year, according to Reuters.

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