Ex-U.S. marine held in Russia on spying charge says he’s being threatened: TASS

Ex-U.S. marine held in Russia on spying charge says he's being threatened: TASS

Former U.S. Marine Paul Whelan, who was detained on suspicion of spying, is escorted inside a court building before a hearing regarding the extension of his detention, in Moscow, Russia, May 24, 2019. REUTERS/Shamil Zhumatov

MOSCOW (Reuters) – An ex-U.S. Marine held in Russia on suspicion of spying on Friday accused a security service investigator of subjecting him to threats and asked a court to have the man removed from his case, the TASS news agency reported.

Paul Whelan, who holds U.S., British, Canadian and Irish passports, was detained in a Moscow hotel room on Dec. 28 and accused of espionage, a charge he denies. If found guilty, he faces up to 20 years in jail.

“I call for FSB (security service) investigator captain Alexei Khizhnyak to be called off (the case). He is insulting my dignity and threatening my life,” Whelan was quoted as telling the Moscow court.

His comments appear likely to aggravate U.S.-Russia relations already strained over a range of issues including the war in Syria, economic sanctions and the detention of another U.S. citizen, prominent investor Michael Calvey, who is under house arrest in Moscow on embezzlement charges.

Whelan was appearing at a hearing convened to decide whether to extend his detention by three months. The FSB on Tuesday requested he be held until the end of August.

The judge told Whelan he only had the right under Russian law to request the replacement of court or prosecuting officials, but not an investigator.

“I understand that, but what am I supposed to do if my rights are being violated,” Whelan was quoted as saying.

The U.S. embassy in Moscow did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Reporting by Maxim Rodionov; writing by Tom Balmforth; editing by John Stonestreet

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