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Paul Whelan's family urges action from the White House as Novi native remains wrongfully detained in Russia

51-year-old was arrested four years ago while in Moscow for a friend's wedding
Posted at 5:45 PM, May 04, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-04 18:14:19-04

(WXYZ) — Family members of a Michigander who continues to be wrongfully detained in Russia are clinging on to hope that one day their 51-year-old brother will be homebound.

The call comes after Taylor Reed's release last week from a Russian prison.

Paul Whelan’s sister Elizabeth along with other Family members of American hostages and wrongful detainees gathered today in Washington D.C. to plead for the immediate release of their loved ones.

"Paul has been held first in the notorious Lefortovo prison; he is now in a labor camp doing forced labor," said Elizabeth Whelan, Paul's elder sister.

The Novi native was arrested four years ago while in Russia for a friend's wedding. The government there accusing him of espionage.

"Paul Whelan has been detained for 1,224 days. That’s about three years and four months," Elizabeth Whelan said.

A situation she describes as family members and the victims being in a labyrinth.

"30% more Americans are wrongfully detained when Paul was taken in 2018. That's more than 55 people in 18 different counties and those are the ones we know publicly," Elizabeth Whelan said.

Paul’s twin brother David says Americans are being held because of their nationality being used as leverage by their captors in geopolitical disputes with the United States.

"It is going to be an ongoing problem for Americans traveling around the world. Not just in Russia, not just with Paul’s case. And the delays that the U.S. government suffers when they decide who to handle it just makes it worse for the particular family involved," David Whelan said.

Meanwhile for the Whelans, the largest disappointment has been that it took the U.S. government two years to take Pual’s case seriously.

"It felt like it was literally the five of us trying to get the Russian government and U.S. government to do the right thing, and that was very difficult," said David Whelan said.

David says that the White House has assured the Whelans that the Biden administration is still engaged in Paul’s case and they how to hear a resolution soon.