Paul Whelan's trial continued this week as the prosecution resting its case on the testimony of a couple of witnesses. The trial will continue on May 13 when the defense rebuts the prosecution's case. In a fair and impartial system, it doesn't sound like Mr. Zherebenkov and Ms. Karlova would have much trouble. Unfortunately, that does not describe Russia's legal system. Paul has been imprisoned for nearly 500 days on the basis of nothing.
The prosecution took only three days despite the volumes of evidence they claimed proved their serious allegations against Paul. But Paul sent us a note through his lawyers indicating that the prosecution's witnesses contradicted each other. As Mr. Zherebenkov, Paul's lawyer, said to the Russian press, only the witness who entrapped Paul suggests that Paul could have been involved in espionage. As we've known all along, there is no case.
We were grateful that, yet again, US Ambassador to the Russian Federation John Sullivan spoke out about this lack of evidence and due process. Ambassador Sullivan has attempted to see Paul at the courthouse twice and was refused entry both times. As the Ambassador says in his statement, "so little has been done by the Russian authorities to ensure Paul's basic human rights." The Ambassador also noted that, while the court order requiring phone calls was positive, "in reality this is just a small move by Russian authorities. Communication with his own family was Paul's right for the past 16 months, a right the Russian government actively denied him."
[Full 5 minute statement by Amb. Sullivan: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3iESBQ2z9Mo ]
Paul's note also confirmed that his isolation continues. The Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs made a big deal about the court granting Paul's request to make phone calls nearly two weeks ago. But Paul says "judge agreed to two 15 minute calls home monthly, prison stalling!" in yesterday's note. 60 letters were delivered to the prison on February 27, another 60 on March 5, and none have reached Paul's cell.
Ambassador Sullivan notes this peculiar mistreatment by the Russian authorities: "This denial of Paul's native language - English - has been reflected in nearly every aspect of Paul's imprisonment in Lefortovo.... What is the Russian government afraid of? News from his father about tending the garden or plowing snow?"
[Handwritten note from Paul]
[Court disposition of Paul's requests, denying access to an English-speaking doctor, granting phone calls: https://www.kommersant.ru/doc/4327814 ]
While we continue to be grateful for the professional way that Vladimir Zherebenkov and Olga Karlova are handling Paul's defense, it's clear that the judicial process is a sham. There is no fair and impartial process. Ambassador Sullivan: "Details of alleged witnesses and alleged evidence appear in the press, but we do not know what is happening behind those closed doors.... It's time to stop this charade, this mockery of justice."
If the three-judge panel convicts Paul, it is because the Russian authorities have put their thumb on the scales of justice.
We are hopeful that the continued focus by Ambassador Sullivan and others in the U.S. government will help bring about Paul's freedom. Rep. McCaul's op-ed in The Hill is an example of how Paul's case is repeatedly raised at all levels of the U.S. government. The support for Paul from both sides of the aisle shows their concern for an American in peril.
There is no evidence to support the charges. If there was justice in Russia, the court would dismiss the case and free Paul. We will see in May.
Thank you for following Paul's wrongful imprisonment.