MOSCOW, August 17 (RAPSI) – Defense lawyers for former American marine Paul Whelan sentenced to 16 years in high-security prison for espionage against Russia have filed complaints over impossibility to contact their client with the Federal Penitentiary Service (FSIN) and the Prosecutor General’s Office, his attorney Vladimir Zherebenkov has told RAPSI.

Whelan is serving sentence in a penal colony in Russia’s Republic of Mordovia. Recently, the defense visited the convict and discussed preparation of a deportation application for court. However, the attorneys could not even phone and communicate to him, the lawyer said.

The convict wants to seek transfer to the U.S. in order to serve the remainder of his sentence there.

In June 2020, the Moscow City Court convicted Whelan of espionage and sentenced him to 16 years behind bars. The hearing was held behind closed doors. A prosecutor demanded 18 years in prison for Whelan.

Whelan is a citizen of the U.S., Canada, Ireland and Great Britain. He is the chief safety officer of BorgWarner, an American worldwide automotive industry components and parts supplier. The foreigner was arrested in late 2018 during “a spying mission”, according to the Federal Security Service. If convicted, he could face up to 20 years in prison.

The Foreign Ministry of Russia reported that papers classified as state secret were seized from Whelan during his arrest on December 28. His lawyer confirmed this information.

According to Zherebenkov, his client came to Russia in December 2018 to attend the wedding of his acquaintance. He received a flash drive containing culturological information he was interested in, including photos and videos. However, there was no secret data on it, the attorney said.

Whelan was not able to use the USB-drive as he was arrested in December 2018.