Day 40 - Paul Whelan - Lefortovo Prison Moscow - Update Feb 6, 2019

The U.S. Embassy staff visited with Paul yesterday (2/5), their second visit since he was arrested 40 days ago.  Due to prison regulations, they were unable to give him a Russian-English dictionary and he was not allowed to sign a Power of Attorney.  The Russian investigator has finally allowed Paul to see the Privacy Act Waiver but he wasn't allowed to sign and give it to U.S. Embassy staff during the visit.  Instead, Paul will have to mail the signed form to the Embassy.

This could happen to any American.  The Russian government's stranglehold on information about Paul's case, and their weeks-long block on his ability to sign a release for the U.S. Embassy, is an example of the arbitrary treatment they could inflict on any detained American.  We have are circulating a draft bill to Congressional representatives to attempt to close this particular loophole.  If passed, it would allow Americans detained by foreign governments to provide an oral waiver of the Privacy Act in situations where they aren't allowed, or aren't able, to sign a release as the law currently requires.  While Embassy staff can utilize exceptions to communicate with Congress, a foreign government shouldn't be able to interfere with a detained American's right by blocking the ability to sign a release.  Hopefully, the House and the Senate can take this action before the next American is detained. 

We continue to be grateful for the close attention paid by the consulates looking after Paul.  But it has been 3 weeks since the U.S. State Department has made any public acknowledgement of Paul's situation [1/16 by spokesperson] and more than a month since British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt warned against using Paul as a diplomatic pawn.  There do not appear to be any public statements by the UK, Canada or Irish governments since Paul's arrest on December 28, 2018.   

Paul will continue to languish in Lefortovo, wrongfully charged as a spy, until the governments representing the nations of which he is a citizen take action.  It has been 5 weeks since Secretary of State Pompeo said the U.S. "would learn more about the charges."  At the least, an American would expect the U.S. government to be able to ask for, and receive, information from the Russian government that explained the allegations against an American citizen.  If governments won't act without information, which they seem unable to acquire, it leaves Americans traveling to nations like Russian in a precarious position.  We hope to see government action to bring Paul back to his family.