Paul Whelan, a former US marine convicted last week of spying in Russia, will not appeal the verdict in the hopes that he will soon be exchanged for a Russian prisoner in the United States, according to his lawyer.
Whelan, 50, was sentenced by a Moscow court to 16 years in prison on the accusation that he had obtained classified Russian state information, the nature of which has not been disclosed.
“We decided to not submit an appeal because he does not believe in the Russian justice system,” Whelan’s lawyer, Vladimir Zherebenkov, said in comments carried by the Russian news agency Interfax on Tuesday.
“He hopes that in the near future he will be exchanged for Russians who have been convicted in the US,” Zherebenkov said, commenting about a meeting with Whelan at a detention facility earlier in the day.
Zherebenkov has speculated that Whelan could be exchanged for Russian illicit arms dealer Viktor Bout or Russian pilot Konstantin Yaroshenko, convicted of conspiracy to smuggle drugs into the US. Both men are in US prisons.
The US has denounced the Russian legal proceedings against Whelan and demanded he be immediately released.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said after the conviction that it was a “secret trial, with secret evidence, and without appropriate allowances for defence witnesses”.
Whelan was detained while on a trip to Moscow in December 2018. Few details about the case have been made public.