Day 238 - Paul Whelan - Lefortovo Prison Moscow - Update August 28 - prison officials retaliating

Paul has spent 8 months wrongfully imprisoned in Russia and will likely spend at least four more.  Paul was injured in prison this month and Lefortovo staff have started to retaliate after he made human rights complaints.
 
Media often ask how Paul's health is.  I can only ever answer based on the latest information from consular visits, which is our only reliable source of his current state of health.  We try to be positive but our information is always out of date.  None of Paul's family has spoken to him since December and his mail to us, and from anyone outside the prison, is delayed for months.  The prison has failed to provide medical documents to the US, UK, Canadian, or Irish embassies, despite Paul's written request that it do so. 
 
The gaps between the consular visits are a period of uncertainty.  It was during the latest gap - between the US visit on August 1 and the Canadian visit on August 22 - that Paul was injured.  He says the injury on August 9 left him immobilized for 4 days.  We now understand the sudden visit by Russian Ministry of Health doctors reported to Russian media by his lawyer.[https://www.interfax.ru/russia/672855Paul faces a waiting game to see how long before his condition deteriorates enough that the prison allows him to have surgery.
It's unclear what impact Paul's declining health will have on the legal process to which he's being subjected.  A Russian judge on Friday extended his detention, for the fourth time, ensuring that he will remain in Lefortovo prison for another 2 months.  But she also granted the FSB investigator 4 more months to investigate.[https://youtu.be/iznkk-p_4dg?t=98]  
 
Paul's lawyer has suggested an indictment might come in the next 2 weeks but Paul's imprisonment is unlikely to end before the new year.  You can imagine how hard it was for his elderly parents to read last weekend that he's been beaten in prison, even if that hasn't yet happened.  Paul's public statements and media coverage show how precarious his existence is.  Our parents realize now that, despite not having been convicted of anything, he will not be back for our mum's 80th birthday or Christmas.
 
More worrying are Paul's reports that prison officials are retaliating after he made human rights complaints.  Paul has complained publicly at his hearings as well as in letters to human rights groups.[https://ria.ru/20190726/1556906277.html]  Even though it is his right to communicate to Russian human rights monitors, he has seen a noticeable drop in prison staff professionalism since he did so.[https://www.mk.ru/social/2019/06/02/pochemu-amerikanec-pol-uilan-ne-mozhet-obshhatsya-spravozashhitnikami.htmlPaul used an emergency notification system in the prison when he was injured and it took nearly an hour for a guard to respond.
 
One guard is sufficiently aggressive now that Paul has expressed concern about physical abuse.  Someone at the prison is to investigate this guard's behavior but Paul's situation is unlikely to improve.  He and his cellmate were arbitrarily forced to change cells, to one that was dirty and in disrepair.  We had hoped that the Human Rights Commission would visit Paul as they said they would in July but that visit does not appear to have happened [https://ria.ru/20190726/1556912195.html].
 
Paul told Canadian consular staff that he continues to be interrogated.  His lawyers are having difficulty accessing the prison so he does not have access to legal counsel.  Paul was not even aware he'd have his detention hearing Friday until he was taken to it.  
 
This is consistent with the failure of the court to ensure Paul has access to information and legal documents translated into English.  Mr. Zherebenkov, his lead lawyer, has indicated to media that the evidence review, that will occur after indictment, could be lengthy because of the translation required.  But so far, there has been no attempt to ensure that Paul's case is handled properly and with in accordance with Russian law. [https://youtu.be/iznkk-p_4dg?t=311]
 
The US Embassy was granted an emergency visit to see Paul yesterday [8/27/2019], after his statements at his hearing of injury and abuse at Lefortovo.  This and recent visits by the US and Canadian embassies, and the planned visit Thursday [8/29/2019] by the Irish embassy, give us hope that Paul's ongoing mistreatment in Lefortovo will be minimized.  Even if his lawyers are unable to see him, at least someone is keeping an eye on Paul.  The ongoing consular care and attention to Paul's health and human rights has never been so critical.  
 
Paul's lawyers say Paul was framed by a friend, an FSB employee, who wanted promotion.[https://ria.ru/20190823/1557830059.html ; https://youtu.be/iznkk-p_4dg?t=183] Retired FSB officers say Paul is not a spy.[https://www.mk.ru/politics/2019/07/01/ekspert-ocenil-shansy-na-obmen-letchika-yaroshenko-na-shpiona-uilana.html]  But the FSB continues to try to break Paul and get a confession.  Now they have 4 more months to pressure him.  We hope he is able to stay strong until he is delivered from this wrongful imprisonment.  Justice will only be served when he is released and sent home to the United States.
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