A former US Marine just got handed a 16-year prison sentence in Russia for spying. Paul Whelan, 50, insists he's innocent and was set up in a bogus sting operation, reports the BBC. On Monday, he held a sign in court reading "sham trial!" Whelan was arrested in December 2018 in a hotel room in Moscow with what prosecutors say was a flash drive filled with classified information. Whelan's explanation: A Russian friend gave him what he thought was a drive filled with family photos. Whelan holds passports for the US, Britain, Canada, and Ireland, and he works as director of global security for US automotive parts supplier BorgWarner, the company tells NPR.
"This secret trial in which no evidence was produced is an egregious violation of human rights and international legal norms," said a spokesman for the US embassy in Moscow. US ambassador John Sullivan called it a "mockery of justice" and warned that it would hurt US-Russian relations. A Reuters report suggests that Whelan might be part of a prisoner swap for a Russian national jailed in the US. Details were scarce, but Moscow has been pushing for the release of two men in particular, Viktor Bout, convicted of arms dealing, and Konstantin Yaroshenko, convicted of cocaine smuggling. (Whelan previously complained about abusive conditions in prison.)