NOVI, Mich. (WXYZ) — A Novi man held prisoner in Russia is asking President Joe Biden for help.
Paul Whelan’s family released a recording of his plea for freedom Monday. Paul will mark 900 days in Russian custody on Wednesday, the day that President Joe Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin are scheduled to meet in Geneva.
In the recorded statement Paul Whelan says:
President Biden, after 30 months of being wrongly detained by the Russian government, which is twice as long as American citizens were held hostage in Tehran, I implore you to bring this appalling case of hostage diplomacy to an end. I remain innocent. No crime of espionage occurred. The secret trial, without evidence, proves those facts.
The abduction of an American tourist cannot stand. Congress, American citizens, and supporters throughout the world echo my call for immediate, decisive action.
Please bring me home to my family, and my dog Flora, where I belong. Thank you, Mr. President, for your commitment to returning me home and bringing this deplorable hostage situation to an expedient conclusion.
Paul’s family says he is currently being forced to manufacture clothing in prison. He has injuries from the repetitive work. He is worried about the spread of COVID-19 within the prison.
“Russia says that Paul is a spy and it is the most ludicrous thing they could have come up with,” said David Whelan, Paul’s brother in an interview with 7 Action News.
David says his brother went to Russia for a fellow former U.S. Marine’s wedding. He says Paul isn’t a prisoner. He is a hostage. As Paul was sentenced to 16 years in prison Russian leaders talked about the possibility of a prisoner exchange. That talk continues.
In the first interview President Vladimir Putin has done with American media in years NBC asked specifically about Paul Whelan a few days ago.
“I know that we have certain U.S. citizens in prison who have been convicted, but if you look at the number of Russian citizens in U.S. prisons the numbers don’t compare,” said President Putin.
When asked if he would consider a prison swap he said, “Yes, of course.”
As President Putin prepares to meet with President Joe Biden on Wednesday, the annexation of Crimea in 2014, interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, ransomware attacks, and human rights abuses are all straining its relationship with the United States.
David Whelan says he is grateful to President Biden for having the meeting.
“I think without this meeting Paul wouldn’t have any hope of coming home before his term was over,” said David.