Paul Whelan holds up a message inside a defendants' cage in Moscow. Photo: Dimitar Dilkoff/AFP via Getty Images

A Russian court sentenced on Monday American businessman Paul Whelan to 16 years in prison on spying charges, the AP reports.

The state of play: Whelan, a 50-year-old corporate security executive and Marine Corps veteran, was arrested in Moscow in December 2018. He and his brother, David, argue the charge is political and that he was set up.

  • Whelan is an American citizen who also holds British, Canadian and Irish passports.
  • His lawyer has said he was framed in a sting operation and was unknowingly handed a flash drive that contained classified information.
  • After Whelan's sentence was read, U.S. Ambassador to Russia John Sullivan said prosecutors produced no evidence of Whelan's guilt and denounced the trial as a violation of human rights and international legal norms.

What they're saying: "The court’s decision merely completes the final piece of this broken judicial process," David Whelan said in a statement.

  • "We had hoped that the court might show some independence but, in the end, Russian judges are political, not legal, entities. We look to the U.S. government to immediately take steps to bring Paul home."

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