Paul Whelan was convicted of espionage today and sentenced to 16 years hard labor. But it was the Russian legal system that was found guilty of injustice. Entrapment by FSB Major Ilya Yatsenko to gain his own promotion. Investigator Alexei Khiznyak's incompetent 9 month investigation into a person Russian authorities said was caught "red-handed." Prosecutor Milana Digayeva brought the legal profession into disrepute by seeking a harsh prison term because Paul insisted on his innocence.
The court's decision merely completes the final piece of this broken judicial process. We had hoped that the court might show some independence but, in the end, Russian judges are political, not legal, entities. We understand that Paul's lawyers may appeal this decision within the next two weeks. We hope that, in their continued search for justice for Paul, that the appeal is successful. But Russians do not expect justice from their legal system, and neither do we.
Our family will continue to fight for Paul's release. The Russian government has been clear, through statements from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, that it expects to extract concessions from the US but that Paul's inclusion in those discussions would only happen after a conviction. That time is here.
We look to the U.S. government to immediately take steps to bring Paul home. We will continue to work with members of Congress and the State Department to advocate for Paul's freedom and protect his human rights until he is free.
We will rely on the help of David Urban, who is able to have conversations in the White House that our family cannot. And we will look to President Trump, who alone can act to bring Paul home. We hope he will do so swiftly.