Paul Whelan’s parents recorded a Thanksgiving message from their son, who remains inside a Russian prison.
“Corruption here knows no bounds,” Whelan said in the video. “After the warden threatened me with retaliation for reporting violations of Russian law and human rights abuses, he was arrested for multiple charges of corruption.”
Whelan said he’s faced retaliation for speaking out. His twin brother, David Whelan, spoke to Local 4 from Canada and praised Paul’s courage.
“I think he must be obviously assessing a situation and feeling that it’s a risk that’s worth taking, and he is going to continue to speak out,” David Whelan said. “I think that’s going to be a constant frustration for the Russian officials.”
The former corporate security executive and U.S. Marine was arrested in Moscow in 2018. After being convicted of espionage, Paul Whelan was sentenced to 16 years in prison.
“We’re monitoring Russian media,” David Whelan said. “We’re interacting with American government officials. It’s all very difficult.”
The family has been keeping a close eye on the Danny Fenster case. The Michigan journalist was jailed in Myanmar for months and was released just last week.
“I’m so happy for the Fenster family,” David Whelan said.
He said comparing Myanmar to Russia is like apples and oranges.
“Myanmar is a nation where the government is struggling with legitimacy,” David Whelan said. “It’s got an ongoing insurgency inside his country. It was probably looking to mend fences with the United States, and so returning Danny Fenster to Michigan probably made a lot of sense. Russia is not interested in mending any fences.”
The Whelan family hopes against all odds that Paul will come home.
“The sooner he can be released, the better,” David Whelan said. “That’s what I hope for.”