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One year later, Paul Whelan remains jailed in Russia

Posted at 6:57 PM, Dec 24, 2019
and last updated 2019-12-24 22:19:21-05

(WXYZ) — As many of us will spend time home for the holidays with with loved ones, Novi native Paul Whelan will not.

The former Marine remains in a Russia jail, charged with being a spy for the United States.

It’s been a year now since Paul’s trip to Russian turned into a nightmare. 7 Action News spoke with David Whelan, Paul’s twin brother, on the one-year anniversary of Paul's arrest.

Paul’s words were emotional. For him, the holidays make this reality even harder to bear.

It was December 2018 when Novi native Paul Whelan boarded a plane to Russia.

It was supposed to be a magical, wonderful time witnessing the wedding of a friend. However, on that journey things took a jarring turn for the former marine.

Paul was arrested in a Moscow hotel. He was detained by the FSB, Russia’s Domestic Intelligence Agency.

He was arrested and charged with being a spy. For Paul’s twin brother, David, it seemed like a tall tale. It also felt like a fierce punch to the gut.

“Complete disbelief, to have the Russian Government accuse your brother of being a spy," David said. " (It) just seems so far fetched, so Hollywood like, it’s hard to believe."

Before this whirlwind, Paul worked as the head of global security for a Michigan-based auto supplier. David says he believes Paul's current situation could be attached to that.

Paul has pleaded to European leaders and President Donald Trump for his release. But Russian lawyers have appealed for an extension and Paul is still awaiting trial.

If convicted, Paul could spend 20 years behind bars. He has repeatedly denied the charges and assures that he was set up.

“There is no evidence, there is no case," David said. "If they are people of honor they will realize that a mistake has been made. I don’t think this was ever intended to be a large political dispute, which it has become. It really is a small law enforcement corruption issue. If they were honest about it, it could go away."

Congress has insisted upon the same – for the Russian Government to produce tangible proof against Paul, or release him at once.

Plus, Paul has health issues. Ones, that were set to be addressed if his return to the U.S. happened as planned.

“He’s been in a Russian prison for 12 months now, as of Saturday and he still hasn’t been able to see any medical professional, who can speak to him in English and explain what’s going on,” David explains with worry.

There is not a day David does not think about Paul.

As he encourages him from afar, he also prays that his family is reunited because the time we all have left is precious. When asked what he would say to Paul, David said he'd tell his brother to “stay strong. Be defiant and it will eventually come to an end and hopefully you’ll be home to see home Mom and Dad before they die.”

So, of course David’s wish for the New Year is for his brother’s speedy and safe return home.