LONDON: Former US marine Paul Whelan has been attacked by another inmate in a Russian prison while serving a 16-year sentence on espionage charges, Russia’s prison service said on Wednesday, after Whelan’s brother publicised the incident.

Whelan, who denies spying on Russia, was punched in the face and forced to defend himself at a sewing workshop in a high security penal colony in Russia’s Mordovia region southeast of Moscow, his brother Dave Whelan said in a statement.

“A new prisoner blocked part of the production line and Paul asked him to move out of the way. After repeated requests, the prisoner hit Paul in the face, breaking Paul’s glasses in the process, and attempted to hit him a second time,” Dave Whelan said.

“Paul stood up to block the second hit and other prisoners intervened to prevent the prisoner continuing the attack on Paul.” Dave Whelan said the incident took place on Tuesday afternoon. He thought his brother was a target because he was an American and anti-American sentiment was “not uncommon among the other prisoners,” he said.The Mordovia regional prison service confirmed to the Interfax news agency that the attack on Whelan had happened. It said guards had taken immediate action to stop “the illegal actions.” Both men had been taken to the medical bay, where Whelan was found to have suffered an abrasion beneath one of his eyes, it was cited as saying.

Published in Dawn, November 30th, 2023

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