• Former U.S. marine Paul Whelan was arrested in Moscow in 2018
  • He was sentenced in a “secret trial” to 16 years for espionage
  • The U.S. ambassador to Russia has called the verdict “a mockery of justice”

Paul Whelan, a former United States marine, has been found by a Russian court guilty of spying for the U.S. and sentenced to 16 years in prison.

Whelan, who holds passports from the U.S., the United Kingdom, Canada and Ireland, was detained by the Russian Federal Security Service in a Moscow hotel room in December 28, 2018 and has since been held in Lefortovo prison.

The U.S. ambassador to Moscow John Sullivan has demanded Whelan’s release, claiming after the verdict that the Russian government has not produced any evidence to prove his guilt and called the verdict “a mockery of justice.”

“Today, Paul Whelan was convicted and sentenced to 16 years in prison in Russia. This secret trial in which no evidence was produced is an egregious violation of human rights and international legal norms,” Sullivan said in a press conference.

Whelan, speaking from behind a glass screen before his verdict was announced, called the trial “a sham.” He also called on the leaders of the four countries to which he holds citizenship to “end this.”

Whelan’s family has maintained that he was traveling to Moscow to attend a wedding and was arrested on false charges. Whelan has denied the accusations of espionage.

Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov has said that Whelan was caught “red-handed” with a flash drive containing “state secrets” during a personal trip to Russia. Whelan’s lawyer Vladimir Zherebenkov said Whelon was unwittingly handed the flash drive.

According to Russian news agency Interfax, Whelan’s lawyers plan to appeal the decision within 10 days.

While U.S. authorities demanded Whelan’s release, Russian prosecutors painted Whelan as an agent who was a threat to Russia’s security.

According to Zherebenkov, prosecutors claimed Whelan was “at least a colonel” at a major U.S. intelligence agency.

Prosecutors last month summed up their charges last month by saying Whelan tried to receive information detrimental to Russian interests, Zherebenkov said.

Whelan has also claimed that he was denied proper medical treatment while in Russian custody. The U.S. embassy in Moscow said Russian authorities had waited until his condition was “life-threatening” before providing him with medical aid. The Russian foreign ministry said it was a “simple” procedure.