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Trump ambassador Huntsman tells Russia to ‘quit playing’ games with American jailed in Moscow | His Word - Christianity Today

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President Trump’s ambassador to Russia called Friday for the release of Paul Whelan, a former U.S. Marine accused of espionage lingering for more than 100 days in a Moscow prison.

“If there’s a case, I think the evidence would have been brought forward by now,” longtime statesman Jon Huntsman said in an interview. “So, for me, as a senior American official in Russia, I hope that he is released as quickly as possible.”

“If there is no evidence, and the Russians have not shown that there is any evidence so far, then let’s move on,” Mr. Huntsman added. “Let’s move on and quit playing these games.”

An ambassador to Singapore and China under previous Republican and Democratic presidents, Mr. Huntsman raised concerns with the Russian case against Mr. Whelan while speaking with Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty, a media organization funded by the U.S. government.

Months since Mr. Whelan’s arrest December 28, the diplomat’s comments echoed complaints raised in the interim by fellow officials at the State Department including Andrea Kalan, a spokesperson for the U.S. Embassy in Russia.

“As days and weeks go by, Mr. Whelan remains in detention [without] any evidence being presented,” Ms. Kalan said last week. “We keep hearing statements from Russian officials that he was caught red-handed. So where’s the evidence?”

Russian authorities attest that Mr. Whelan, a 49-year-old former Marine from Michigan, was arrested in possession of a USB drive containing classified information. Defense lawyers have argued that Mr. Whelan believed that he was receiving photographs of a historic town near Moscow, Sergiev Posad.

Representatives at the Russian Embassy in D.C. referred to a recent statement by Maria Zakharova, a spokeswoman for Russia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, when reached for comment. Reacting to similar complaints from the State Department, she accused U.S. counterparts last month of being in “a fit of hysteria,” according to Moscow’s translation.

Mr. Whelan faces 20 years imprisonment if convicted in Russia of espionage. He was arrested shortly after Maria Butina, a Russian national arrested in D.C., pleaded guilty to acting as an unregistered foreign agent, though Ms. Zakharova shrugged off subsequent suggestions of a potential spy swap involving the pair as “fake news.”

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