Day 419 - Paul Whelan - Lefortovo Prison Moscow - February 22, 2020 - Trial Approaching

Paul has been in Lefortovo prison for 420 days as of tomorrow [2/21/2020].  He was visited by the Irish embassy staff on February 5th.  We are hoping that requests made by the UK Embassy and the Canadian Embassy to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for visits in the coming weeks will be approved.
The timing is particularly important for Paul.  He confirmed to the Irish consular staff that he expects his trial to be held at the end of March.  This aligns with what his lawyers have said publicly to Russian media.  Consular visits before trial will be critical for his morale and ability to communicate.  Once the trial - which will be held in secret - starts, it may be more difficult for him to have visitors. We do not know how long the trial will last, or what will be coming next for Paul.
We are grateful that Foreign Minister's Lavrov's comments about the prison's restrictions on Paul's access to his lawyers have had an impact.  Paul's defense counsel have had increased access to Paul since then and that has enabled them to complete their review of the purported evidence more quickly.  This has moved up the expected trial from May or June.  The next stages involve pre-trial motions and, hopefully, a trial starting in March.  The trial remains an obstacle to Paul's freedom and we hope it begins and concludes quickly.
Paul's sister Elizabeth returned to Washington last week to continue to lobby on our brother's behalf.  We are grateful for the continued support from members of Congress in contacting the State Department for updates and to show their concern about Paul.  For example, Paul's case has been constantly championed by Representative Haley Stevens of Michigan, who recently wrote to Ambassador Sullivan in Moscow.  The letters have been going both ways.  We understand that Paul's letters to Senators and members of the House are reaching their recipients.  We're hopeful that his personal pleas for assistance - and thanks for support - will not go unheeded.