Accused US spy denied bail in Russia

Accused US spy denied bail in Russia
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A Russian judge on Tuesday denied bail to an American who has been detained for weeks on espionage allegations, according to multiple reports.

USA Today reported that a judge refused to release Paul Whelan following a brief court hearing. The judge said Whelan's arrest was legal.

The American was confined to a metal cage during the hearing, the news outlet reported.

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Whelan's lawyer, Vladimir Zherebenkov, said Whelan maintains his innocence.

Reuters reported that Zherebenkov said Whelan had accepted classified information unknowingly.

“Paul was actually meant to receive information from an individual that was not classified,” Zherebenkov told reporters, according to Reuters.

“These were cultural things, a trip to a cathedral, Paul’s holiday ... photographs," the attorney added. "But as it turned out, it [the thumb drive] contained classified information.”

Whelan did not view the contents of the thumb drive before he was detained, Zherebenkov added.

Whelan, a former Marine who works as a security executive for automotive parts maker BorgWarner in Michigan, was detained late last month in Russia on suspicion of espionage.

Whelan's twin brother said his sibling was in Moscow for a wedding between a fellow ex-Marine and a Russian woman and has insisted that Whelan is innocent.

U.S. Ambassador to Russia Jon Huntsman visited with Whelan earlier this month in the Lefortovo Detention Facility.

Whelan's arrest comes amid heightened tensions between the U.S. and Russia. 

Maria Butina, a Russian national, pleaded guilty in December to acting as an unregistered agent of the Russian government in the U.S. She faces a maximum of five years in prison.