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Family of Detained Teacher Commemorates Second Anniversary of His Arrest in Russia

Marc Fogel was arrested for bringing marijuana, which he was prescribed for medical use, into the country

The family of Marc Fogel spoke publicly to commemorate the second anniversary of his arrest in Russia as they continue to hope the United States government will bring him home.

Fogel, a history teacher from Pennsylvania, was arrested on Aug. 14, 2021 for bringing a small amount of marijuana into the country. He had been prescribed medical marijuana by an American doctor to treat chronic back pain. Fogel was about to begin his 10th year teaching at a Russian school.

The 62-year-old was sentenced to 14 years in prison.

“It’s been a real rollercoaster over the past two years,” said Anne Fogel, his sister, while speaking with WPXI on Aug. 14. “It’s exhausting.”

“We won’t let it die. We’re not going to let Marc down,” she added.

“He’s just a totally normal guy who just wants to live his life and he’s stuck. And he’s stuck there for no reason,” said his niece, Ellen Keelan. “It’s not fair and he could die there. That’s how serious this is.”

The Fogels have met with members of Congress since his arrest in hopes of having the U.S. government classify the teacher as “wrongfully detained.” That was the designation given to WNBA player Brittney Griner, who was arrested in Russia in August 2022 for bringing vape canisters containing cannabis oil into the country. She was sentenced to nine years in prison.

The Biden administration agreed to swap Griner for Viktor Bout, a Russian arms dealer who has been in American custody for 12 years while serving a 25-year sentence. Bout was convicted on arms charges and for conspiring to kill Americans. Griner was released on Dec. 8 and brought back to America.

Pennsylvania Congressman Guy Reschenthaler, who has met with the Fogel family, expressed frustration with President Joe Biden in the wake of Griner’s release. He said the Biden administration cares “more about celebrity admiration and wokeness than returning all Americans safely to their families.”

“Swapping a celebrity basketball player for the Merchant of Death – while excluding a Marine and a history teacher – is patently offensive and exposes the Biden Administration’s deeply rooted disdain for everyday Americans,” he said. “Biden and Secretary Blinken better preserve their documents because the new House Republican majority is going to demand answers on this latest disaster.”

Reschenthaler was referring to Paul Whelan, a former U.S. Marine who has been in Russian custody for nearly five years. He was arrested on Dec. 28, 2018, and sentenced to 16 years in prison on June 15, 2020.

In a phone interview with CNN from a prison camp in Mordovia in May, Whelan said he hoped the federal government would move a “little bit more quickly” to secure his release.

“I remain positive and confident on a daily basis that the wheels are turning,” said the 53-year-old.

“I have been told that I won’t be left behind,” he said, per The New York Post. “I feel that my life shouldn’t be considered less valuable or important than others who have been previously traded. And I think there are people in DC that feel the same way, and they’re moving towards a compromise and resolution to this as quickly as they can.”

U.S. Special Presidential Envoy for Hostage Affairs Roger Carsten, who assisted with Griner’s release, said in an interview with Good Morning America that he hasn’t forgotten about Whelan.

“We’re coming to get you,” Carsten said.

Carsten made no mention of Fogel throughout the interview. 

According to WTAE:

There are two congressional measures for Marc Fogel: A resolution calling for his release, and a bill called the Marc Fogel Act that requires more information from the U.S. Department of State regarding how they make decisions on who is designated as “wrongfully detained” in foreign countries. Once an American gets that designation, the State Department often fights hard to get them back home.

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