Novi man accused of being spy in Russia set to appear in court Tuesday

Hearing scheduled for Paul Whelan in Russian court

By Rod Meloni - Reporter, CFP ®, Derick Hutchinson

NOVI, Mich. - After spending three weeks in a Russian prison on accusations of being a spy, Novi native Paul Whelan is about to see a judge.

Whelan is expected to appear in a Russian court Tuesday, and his family is preparing for a long and drawn-out case.

Local 4 spoke with Whelan's brother, David Whelan, over the phone.

The Whelan family is hanging on as well as it can, expecting the worst and hoping for the best, he said. Family members said they're trying to keep Paul Whelan's life in American exactly as it was before this ordeal.

The family is also looking for help through a GoFundMe page because legal bills are expected to skyrocket.

Paul Whelan is charged with espionage and is being held in the infamous Lefortovo Prison. His family expects the Russian legal system to drag out the case for two or more years.

Family members aren't holding out much hope that Tuesday's court appearance, which American diplomatic personnel will attend, will do much to change Paul Whelan's dire situation.

"The information I have is it's a closed court hearing and that it is really just a standard pretrial procedure in Russian criminal court to determine whether the person can be bonded out or whether detained in pretrial phase," David Whelan said.

While four countries -- the United States, Ireland, Canada and the United Kingdom -- claim Paul Whelan as a citizen, only displomatic corps from the U.S. and Ireland have seen him. Ireland's consul saw him five days ago.

In the meantime, the Whelan family is doing what it can to keep their loved one's life in the U.S. going as if nothing has changed.

"He's got bills to pay like all of us, so just because you're in a Russian jail doesn't mean you don't have to pay rent or pay for anything else, and we're trying to keep that going under the assumption, hopefully, he'll be back soon enough to pick up his life where he left it rather than make a lot of changes," David Whelan said.

The U.S. Embassy is looking to get another meeting with Paul Whelan. One scheduled for Jan. 17 was postponed. The U.S. will also be pushing for Canadian and British consular support to be allowed. So far, Russia hasn't approved the requests.

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