Jan. 2 (UPI) -- U.S. officials have been permitted to see the twin brother of a U.S. citizen arrested on charges of espionage in Russia who said he was visiting Moscow for a wedding and was not spying.
Russian officials said U.S. consular officials were allowed to see Paul Whelan, 48, Wednesday afternoon. Typically, consular officials provide English-speaking attorneys while also checking the conditions that the detainee is living in.
Whelan was detained by Russia's Federal Security Service Friday after authorities say he was caught in the act of spying. Whelan is the director of global security for Michigan-based automotive components supplier BorgWarner. He's a retired Marine who served two tours in Iraq.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo addressed the matter Wednesday.
"We've made clear to the Russians our expectation, that we will learn more about the charges and come to understand what it is he is accused of, and if the detention is not appropriate we will demand his immediate return," Pompeo said.
Family and friends initially feared the worst when he didn't show up for a wedding and didn't respond to phone calls and messages. It wasn't until Monday that they learned he'd been arrested on espionage charges.
"We are deeply concerned for his safety and well-being. His innocence is undoubted and we trust that his rights will be respected," David Whelan, Paul's twin brother, said in a statement. "Knowing that he's not dead, it weirdly helps. When we couldn't get a hold of him initially, we were worried, and we are still worried now, but at least we know he's alive."
David Whelan has contacted several congressional representatives, the U.S. Embassy and the State Department asking for help to get his brother back.
"I think there's really just one goal, which is ... to get Paul back home," Whelan said.
He said he can't imagine his brother working as a spy.
"He's got a military background, he's been in corporate security for years. He was former law enforcement. He was going to be very well aware of the risks of traveling in Russia," Whelan said. "I just don't see him putting himself in a position where he would be considered to break the law by a government like Russia's."
U.S. diplomats have been unable to meet with Paul Whelan. He could face 20 years in prison.
Whelan was touring Moscow with friends Friday. His Marine friend was getting married that night to a Russian woman. The group toured the Kremlin and other tourist spots. He was staying at the upscale Metropol hotel in central Moscow.
He never showed up at the wedding.
Whelan's arrest comes two weeks after Russian Maria Butina pleaded guilty in U.S. federal court to charges of espionage as part of a plea deal. Butina is accused of infiltrating conservative pro-gun groups, including the National Rifle Association, to learn their inner workings and rub elbows with powerful U.S. decision makers. She then reported her findings back to agents in Russia.
Samantha Vinograd, former National Security Council member under the Obama administration, told CNN that Russian President Vladimir Putin could use Whelan as a bargaining chip in a prisoner exchange to get Butina back.