Paul Whelan listens to his lawyers while standing in a prosecutor's cage during a hearing at a court in Moscow on January 22, 201

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[Foto: MLADEN ANTONOV, AFP / Getty Images]

A Russian judge refused to release American Paul Whelan on bail Tuesday. He stated his arrest last month in a hotel in Moscow because of espionage was legal.

The judge dismissed an appeal by Whelan's lawyer, Vladimir Zherebenkov, during a brief hearing, where Whelan, 49, was confined to a tight-fitting metal-reinforced cage.

"The Court of First Instance's decision on the choice of custody of Whelan as a limitation measure should remain unchanged The lawyer's appeal should not be met," the judge stated in his brief judgment made by the state Tass news agency.

Russia's Federal Security Service (FSB) claims Whelan was on a spy mission when he was detained December 28. Whelan, 49, could face up to 20 years in a Russian prison if he was convicted of espionage.

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Whelan's family denies the claim and says he was in Russia for a wedding.

Zherebenkov said on Tuesday that he "can confirm that Whelan had some documents containing state secrets at the time of his detention, but I cannot go into details." However, Zherebenkov added that it was not clear who Whelan received the documents or whether he knew he had them.

Zherebenkov told the BBC that he did not see any evidence that Whelan is a spy. He said Whelan was in good spirits and determined to prove his innocence.

"He feels good, he has a sense of dignity," Zherebenkov said outside Tuesday.

Russia's Rosbalt news service reported that Whelan was in the hotel room when he got a flash drive with a list of employees in a unit within the Russian Defense Ministry. Minutes later, Russian agents stormed into space and arrested the arrest, Rosbalt reported.

Whelan, a former Marine, was born in Canada but lives in Michigan, where he works as director of global security for auto-share supplier BorgWarner. He holds American, British, Canadian and Irish passports. US Ambassador to Russia Jon Huntsman visited him at Moscow's Lefortovo Jan Law Society. 2.

According to his service announcement, he joined Marine Reserves on May 10, 1994 and rose to the rank of staff assistant. He was convicted in the military court in January 2008 on several larceny-related charges and had a bad behavior.

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