Paul Whelan is an American veteran who has been wrongfully detained for the past 28 days in a Russian jail. He met yesterday with the Canadian Charges d'Affaires, Stephane Jobin, and other Canadian consular staff at Lefortovo prison. Paul has now had 5 external visits: a consular visit from Canada (1/24), Ireland (1/16), and the U.S. (1/2), and 2 from his lawyer. The Russian government has still not accepted the U.K.'s request to allow consular access to Paul. These visits are critical to Paul, as they are the only opportunity to communicate with him about his health and to protect his rights.
On this visit, Paul was able to confirm what our family had suspected, which is that his lawyer, Mr. Zherebenkov, was chosen for him. We remain in the dark about who made the choice if Paul didn't. Paul's inability to speak Russian continues to make communication in prison difficult, and he is concerned that he has only seen his lawyer, who doesn't speak English, twice since he was arrested. I have emailed with Olga Karlova, an English-speaking lawyer who has indicated she is now part of the defense team with Mr. Zherebenkov and Mr. Zherebenkov's son, Roman. They are hoping to make more regular visits, including one next week [dw: week of 1/28/2019].
We are grateful for the efforts of the Canadian government to meet with Paul, to exchange verbal communications, and leave written communications to go through the prison's translation and review processes to be given to Paul. Mr. Jobin also spoke with family members today to discuss the visit. Canadian embassy staff helped us to send Paul some supplies he requested - including additional food and writing materials - that he could not obtain from within the prison. He now has access to money to buy toiletries, thanks to the U.S. State Department's creation of an account that allows the family to send funds to the prison.
One of the written communications was a list of alternative Russian lawyers, should Paul decide he needs a change of counsel. We are hopeful he will be given the list as it is our understanding under Article 50 of the Criminal Procedure Code that it is Paul's right to select his defense counsel. Our family is not advocating for or against a change in counsel, but we believe Paul's right to choose should be respected.
The uncertainty around his lawyer, and the investigator's continued prohibition on allowing Paul to consider the U.S. Embassy's Privacy Act waiver, underscore how critical continued consular access is for Paul. He has raised concerns about his medical care and his legal representation and the only way he can receive help is by ongoing visits from representatives from the U.S., Canadian, Irish, and UK embassies.