Paul Whelan moved to prison hospital and unable to call home, brother says

Paul Whelan, the wrongfully imprisoned Novi man who has been incarcerated in Russia for the past three years has been moved to a hospital prison, his brother said. 

David Whelan said the information came from staff at a labor camp where Paul was imprisoned. No reason was given for the move, worrying David who said Paul hasn't complained about any health issues that would require hospitalization.

In a statement, David said Paul always tells his family when he's being transferred to the hospital. "It has usually been without his request or need for medical attention," he said. 

Paul was most recently in contact with his family on Nov. 23. 

"If Paul's at the prison hospital, why is he being prohibited from making phone calls that every prisoner is allowed to make? Is he unable to make calls? Or is he really still at IK-17 (the labor camp) but he's been put in solitary and the prison is hiding that fact."

Paul is serving a 16-year prison sentence after he was convicted by a Russian court on espionage charges. 

When asked by the White House, a spokesman for the National Security Council said it was the first time anyone at the U.S. had heard about Whelan's status. However, in a follow-up statement given to CNN, a State Department spokesman said they were aware Whelan had been recently moved and was unable to call home over the holiday.

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Both Whelan and Brittney Griner, the WNBA star who was convicted of drug charges, have become part of a larger international tension between the U.S. and Russia. The latter has become an international pariah after it invaded Ukraine.

A prisoner swap is said to still be on the table for Griner and Whelan, with convicted Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout considered as someone the U.S. would trade for both prisoners.