MOSCOW -- A Moscow court found former U.S. Marine Paul Whelan guilty of spying and sentenced him to 16 years in prison Monday, according to a statement from his family.
Prosecutors had asked for 18 years for Whelan, who says that he is innocent and that he was set up by a Russian Federal Security Service major who owed him 100,000 rubles ($1,400).
“This secret trial in which no evidence was produced is an egregious violation of human rights and international legal norms,” U.S. Ambassador to Russia John Sullivan said after the sentencing, according to the embassy’s Twitter account.
Whelan, 50, was arrested in December 2018 while attending a wedding in Moscow after receiving a flash drive with “state secrets” that he says he thought contained holiday pictures. At the time, he was BorgWarner's security director. He is no longer with the supplier, a spokeswoman told Automotive News Europe on Monday.
Whelan was convicted in a closed trial.
His family said they believe that now Whelan has been sentenced Russia will try to use him as a bargaining chip to gain U.S. concessions. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called for his release last week.
In July, Interfax quoted a senior Russian official as proposing a swap of Whelan for a Russian pilot, Konstantin Yaroshenko, who is serving a 20-year sentence for conspiracy to smuggle cocaine into the U.S.
Whelan’s lawyers have two weeks to file an appeal, which is expected.