Russian court to consider transferring jailed ex-Marine to U.S. -lawyers

Former U.S. Marine Paul Whelan, who was detained and accused of espionage, holds a sign as he stands inside a defendants' cage during his verdict hearing in Moscow, Russia June 15, 2020. REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov

MOSCOW, Sept 8 (Reuters) - A Russian court plans to consider a request by a former U.S. Marine imprisoned in Russia to be transferred to the United States to serve his sentence there, his lawyers said on Wednesday.

Russia convicted Paul Whelan - who holds U.S., British, Canadian and Irish passports - of spying in June 2020 and sentenced him to 16 years in jail. He denied the charge and said he was set up in a sting operation, and Washington has demanded his release.

Lawyers Olga Karlova and Vladimir Zherebenkov told the Interfax news agency that the hearing into Whelan's potential transfer was set to take place on Sept. 27.

Karlova later told TASS news agency the court had postponed the hearing and that the date "will be known in due course."

Whelan - who Russia said was caught with a computer flash drive containing classified information - had said he hoped to be freed as part of a prisoner swap.

President Vladimir Putin discussed the topic with his U.S. counterpart Joe Biden at a summit in June, but Whelan and Trevor Reed, another former U.S. Marine, remain behind bars in Russia.

Whelan, who is being held in a high-security prison eight hours' drive from Moscow, denounced his trial as a sham and said he thought the drive, given to him by a Russian acquaintance, contained holiday photos.

Reporting by Anton Kolodyazhnyy and Alexander Marrow; Writing by Gabrielle Tétrault-Farber; ; editing by John Stonestreet

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