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American Paul Whelan Sentenced to 16 Years in Russia on Spying Charges

Whelan has insisted on his innocence, saying he was set up

This undated photo provided by the Whelan family shows Paul Whelan in Iceland. Whelan, a former U.S. Marine arrested in Russia on espionage charges, was visiting Moscow over the holidays to attend a wedding when he suddenly disappeared, his brother said Tuesday, Jan. 1, 2019.
The Whelan Family via AP

A Russian court sentenced an American to 16 years in prison on spying charges -- a sentence he rejected as political.

The Moscow City Court on Monday read out the conviction of Paul Whelan on charges of espionage and sentenced him to 16 years in a maximum security prison colony.

Whelan has insisted on his innocence, saying he was set up. The U.S. Embassy has denounced Whelan's trial as unfair, pointing that no evidence has been provided.

U.S. Ambassador John J. Sullivan demanded on Twitter Monday that Whelan be "released immediately."

"His conviction is a mockery of justice. The world is watching," the tweet from Rebecca Ross, spokesperson of the U.S. embassy in Moscow, said.

Whelan's brother David said lawyers will appeal the verdict that he denounced as political, adding in a statement that “the court’s decision merely completes the final piece of this broken judicial process.”

“We had hoped that the court might show some independence but, in the end, Russian judges are political, not legal, entities,” the statement said. “We look to the U.S. government to immediately take steps to bring Paul home.”

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