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Paul Whelan, Held in Russia for Spying, Pleads for Help from Trump

In the latest such case, a Russian software developer, Oleg Tishchenko, pleaded guilty on Wednesday in Salt Lake City to smuggling F-16 fighter-jet manuals to Moscow. He denied being a spy and said he merely wanted to develop a realistic flight simulator. The judge sentenced the Russian to one year in prison but ordered his immediate deportation to Moscow because he had already served his time in pretrial detention.

In his courtroom statement on Thursday, Mr. Whelan indicated that investigators from Russia’s Federal Security Service, or F.S.B., which is handing the case, were pressuring him to confess, which would relieve them of having to produce evidence in court.

“My life has been threatened my rights have been denied,” said Mr. Whalen, who appeared to be healthy. “I have been isolated in order to force a confession.”

Asked about an earlier statement that he was being mistreated, he said that guards at Lefortovo Prison, the tsarist-era jail where he is being held, had become a “little bit nicer” but added: “They are not the problem.” The problem, he said, are the “S.V.R. and F.S.B.,” a reference to Russia’s foreign and domestic intelligence agencies.

Mr. Whelan’s Russian lawyer, Vladimir A. Zherebenkov, said that his client had been framed and that investigators had produced no evidence to support the accusation of espionage other than a flash drive found in the back pocket of Mr. Whelan’s trousers.

The lawyer said Mr. Whelan had no knowledge of the flash drive, which he said had been planted by a Russian friend who “works in the system,” apparently a reference to Russia’s security apparatus. He declined to elaborate.

Mr. Whelan had made numerous trips to Russia over a decade and cultivated dozens of Russian friends through social media. His lawyer said that months before his arrest Mr. Whelan had traveled, along with the person who later set him up, to Sergiev Posad, the site of an Orthodox monastery north of Moscow, and had been waiting for photos and videos of their trip there together.

Source: NYT > World

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