LANSING, Mich. (Michigan News Source) – Paul Whelan, a 53-year-old former active duty U.S. Marine, has been behind bars in a Russian prison since the end of 2018, serving a 16-year sentence for spying – a charge that the U.S. government has argued is without merit. His twin brother, David, calls Paul a “hostage” of Russia with today marking Paul’s 1797th day of captivity.

Paul is a a Novi resident and had been working for BorgWarner, an automotive parts manufacturer based in Michigan, when he was arrested in Russia. He is now in a Mordovia labor colony and that is where he was assaulted recently according to his brother, David, who sent out an email to Paul’s supporters today.

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David’s email says that Paul was attacked on Tuesday afternoon by a fellow prisoner. He said in the email, “I believe some of you are already aware, but Paul let our parents know today that he’d been attacked by another prisoner at his labor camp.”

David describes what happened by saying, “Paul was working at a sewing table early afternoon on November 28 (he said about 1:30 Moscow time), a table like the one you may have seen in the RT propaganda video earlier this year. 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. Paul stood up to block the second hit and other prisoners intervened to prevent the prisoner continuing to attack Paul.”

David went on to discuss the situation by saying, “Since the guards will not enter the workshop, Paul was at the mercy of this prisoner and had to go looking for a guard to report the attack to. Paul described the attack as relatively minor but has reported it to the prison camp’s deputy warden and he has asked the prison administration to allow him to speak to Mordovia prosecutor’s office for investigation. He is also concerned that these sorts of attacks can occur any time and, due to the various sharp implements in the workshop including the shears the other prisoner was holding today, could escalate into a far more serious attack. Paul is a target because he is an American and anti-American sentiment is not uncommon among the other prisoners.”

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David continued in the email, “Paul says he believes the prison administration is taking the attack seriously. It is too early to know whether they will take steps to ensure his safety in the future, both from this prisoner and others who may decide they have nothing to lose by attacking Paul. Our parents have shared the audio of this phone call with the State Department and NSC staff so they are aware of the threat and can raise the issue with the Russian government.”

Fox News Digital is reporting that Paul suffered an eye injury in tithe quarrel – an abrasion under his eye, according to the Mordovian Federal Penitentiary Service. They are also reporting that the other prisoner is a convict from Turkey who “who allegedly struck the U.S. national “on the basis of political differences.”

The incident is being investigated by police in Mordovia with the aid of surveillance video. The Federal Penitentiary Service says, “Employees of the institution immediately stopped the illegal actions and took the participants in the conflict to the medical unit.”

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The U.S. State Dept. is reported to have been in contact with Paul and continues to call on Russia to release Whelan and to ensure that all United States citizens being detained in their country are safe.