Brittney Griner: Months in captivity end on UAE tarmac
By Nandita Bose, Humeyra Pamuk and Matt Spetalnick WASHINGTON (Reuters) - After months of painstaking negotiations with Moscow, it became clear to the Biden administration that it faced a grave choice – to exchange notorious Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout for U.S. basketball star Brittney Griner or else get no American to bring home. Thursday's prisoner swap, approved by U.S. President Joe Biden, came together in the past 48 hours, sending Griner from a Russian penal colony to Moscow and then to an airport in the United Arab Emirates, U.S. officials say.Excluded from the deal was another high-profile U.S.
(Reuters) - Paul Whelan, a former U.S. Marine serving a 16-year sentence in a Russian penal colony on espionage charges, did not figure in a prisoner exchange on Thursday involving U.S. basketball star Brittney Griner, despite months of speculation that he would be included. © Thomson Reuters FILE PHOTO: Verdict hearing of former U.S. Marine Paul Whelan, who was detained and accused of espionage, in Moscow
Here are some facts about Whelan:
- Whelan was detained by agents from Russia's Federal Security Service (FSB) in a room in Moscow's Metropol Hotel, near the Kremlin, on Dec. 28, 2018.
- Investigators said he was a spy for military intelligence with a rank of colonel or higher, and had been caught red-handed with a computer flash drive containing classified information.
Detained American Whelan says he's disappointed more not done to free him
WASHINGTON (Reuters) -Paul Whelan, an ex-U.S. Marine detained in Russia, expressed dismay on Thursday that more had not been done to secure his release and urged President Joe Biden to act fast following a prisoner swap that freed U.S. basketball star Brittney Griner. Griner was released in exchange for arms dealer Viktor Bout, a transaction that may leave the United States with little leverage to negotiate for Whelan, who is serving 16 years on espionage charges which he denies. He was detained in 2018 and convicted two years later.
- Whelan said he had been in Russia for a friend's wedding and had been given the drive in a sting by a Russian friend. He said he had thought it contained holiday photos.
- After a trial held entirely behind closed doors that U.S. diplomats said was unfair and opaque, Whelan, now 52, was convicted of spying in 2020, and sentenced to 16 years in a maximum security jail. He is currently being held in the IK-17 penal colony in the Mordovia region, east of Moscow.
- Born in Ottawa, Canada, to British parents of Irish origin, Whelan later moved to Novi, Michigan, and is a national of all four countries.
- Whelan served with the Marine Corps Reserve from 2003-2008, much of the time as an administrative clerk in Iraq. At the end of that period, he was dishonourably discharged for larceny and other lesser offences, after being found to have tried to steal $10,000.
- At the time of his arrest, Whelan was head of global security for BorgWarner, a Michigan car parts supplier.
- Last November, a Russian court rejected his request to be allowed to serve his sentence in the United States.
(Compiled by Kevin Liffey; Editing by Daniel Wallis)
Ex-Twitter employee receives over three years in prison for spying for Saudi Arabia .
Ahmad Abouammo had been found guilty of passing personal information on Twitter users to a Saudi government agent.Reuters notes that Abouammo received a $42,000 watch as a gift from a Saudi official, as well as two $100,000 wire transfers. In exchange he looked up information on two Twitter users, including phone numbers and birth dates. After leaving the company in 2015 Abouammo continued to attempt to influence Twitter to verify Saudi accounts or remove posts highlighted by the Saudi government, according to testimony from an FBI agent.