US ex-Marine gets 4-1/2 years in Russian penal colony for attacking police officer

Russian police officers stand guard during a rally in Moscow
Russian law enforcement officers. REUTERS/REUTERS PHOTOGRAPHER

LONDON, Oct 4 (Reuters) - Former U.S. marine Robert Gilman was sentenced to 4-1/2 years in a Russian penal colony on Tuesday for attacking a police officer while drunk, Russian news agencies reported.

Police hauled Gilman off a train in Voronezh in January, while he was travelling from the southern city of Sochi to Moscow, after complaints from fellow passengers about his behaviour, the agencies reported, citing the prosecution.

While in custody, Gilman was accused of kicking out at a police officer, leaving him with bruises.

Gilman, whose lawyers told the TASS news agency he had come to Russia to study and obtain citizenship, told the court in Voronezh that he did not remember the incident but had "apologised to Russia" and to the police officer.

After being found guilty, Gilman said the four-and-a-half year sentence requested by the prosecution was too strict.

Gilman's lawyer Valeriy Ivannikov told reporters he intended to appeal and would ask the United States to seek a prisoner exchange.

U.S. State Department deputy spokesperson Vedant Patel said Washington was aware of the decision but said he could not give further details citing privacy considerations.

"We continue to insist that the Russian Federation allow consistent, timely consular access to all (detained) U.S. citizens, and we urge the Russian government to ensure fair treatment to all U.S. citizens detained in Russia," Patel said, declining to say whether consular access had been granted in Gilman's case.

Russia has sentenced several U.S. citizens to lengthy prison terms in recent years, though Gilman's case has attracted less attention than most.

WNBA basketball star Brittney Griner was sentenced in August to nine years in prison after being found in possession of cannabis oil vape cartridges.

Paul Whelan, another ex-marine who also holds Canadian, Irish and British citizenship, is serving 16 years in prison on espionage charges, which he denies.

But in April, former marine Trevor Reed, who was serving nine years after being found guilty of violence against a police officer, was freed in a prisoner exchange.

Russian officials have said they are in talks with Washington about possible new prisoner exchanges. Media reports say they could involve convicted arms dealer Viktor Bout, serving a 25-year sentence in the United States, being released back to Russia.

Reporting by Reuters; Editing by Kevin Liffey and Alistair Bell

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