MOSCOW, Russia (NBC News) The Michigan man being held in Russia on accusations of spying appeared in court today. The arrest of Paul Whelan is raising speculation he could be swapped for a Russian, being held in the United States.
Whelan appeared in a glass enclosure in the Russian courtroom. During the five-minute hearing the judge reading his decision, ruling against releasing the Michigan-native who is charged with espionage.
Mr. Whelan was arrested in December. His family insists he is not a spy. After almost a month, his twin brother says they have little information. David Whelan said, "Nobody knows details other than the Russian government about why he was charged as an alleged spy. It's unbelievable."
The family says Whelan was in Russia for a wedding. While according to Russian media, he was found with state secrets. But some suspect the former Marine is a pawn in a diplomatic game with Russia, which hopes to exchange him for Maria Butina, who plead guilty to illegal activity in connection with a plot to influence conservatives and gain access to a Trump White House. Whelan's brother said, "That sounds very much like a Russian entrapment. David Whelan added a message to Vladimir Putin, ""Let my brother go. The charges are false and he needs to be back with his family."
There are many aspects of the case that remain mysterious. Paul Whelan's lawyer said Tuesday his client was found with a thumb drive that the prosecution says contains state secrets. But the attorney insists Paul Whelan did not know what was on that thumb drive. Thet same lawyer says he does not believe that the case is politically motivated or pretty strange.