Brittney Griner is Free, But Another American Remains Locked Up in Russia for Pot

Brittney Griner is back on American soil after ten months of detention in Russia for drug trafficking. But other US citizens remain locked up in Russia, including a 61-year-old man whose detention mirrors Griner’s experience.

Policy published a story last week about Marc Fogel, who was arrested last year after Russian authorities found medical marijuana in his possession.

“Fogel’s case bears a striking similarity to that of Griner, which has made national headlines since the WNBA star was detained in Russia in February 2022. Like Griner, Fogel – a 61-year-old history teacher a Pennsylvania native who lived in Russia while teaching at the Anglo-American School in Moscow – was taken into custody by Russian authorities in August 2021 after customs officials at a Russian airport discovered about half a ounce of medical marijuana hidden in his luggage,” Policy reported.

“The drugs had been prescribed to him by doctors in the United States to help treat chronic pain from a series of injuries and operations, but Fogel’s reasons didn’t matter. Ten months later, in June 2022, a Russian court found him guilty of drug trafficking and sentenced him to 14 years in prison. In October, Fogel was moved from a Moscow detention center to one of Russia’s notorious penal colonies, where he is to serve the rest of his sentence. » the outing continued.

Griner, a perennial WNBA Phoenix Mercury star and one of the most decorated female basketball players of all time, came out last week after US and Russian officials brokered a prisoner swap. In exchange for Griner’s release, the United States agreed to release Viktor Bout, a Russian arms dealer who was serving a 25-year prison sentence in the United States.

The deal drew some criticism from those who lamented the exit of Bout, dubbed the “merchant of death”. There was also disappointment that the United States was unable to also secure the release of Paul Whelan, an American citizen who has been detained by Russia since 2018 on charges of espionage.

US officials sought a two-for-one deal — Griner and Whelan in exchange for Bout — but such an arrangement never materialized.

“We haven’t forgotten about Paul Whelan,” President Joe Biden said last week after Griner’s release.

Griner was arrested at a Russian airport in February after authorities found a small amount of cannabis oil in her luggage. She pleaded guilty to the charges, but said she had no intention of breaking the law. In August, a Russian court found her guilty and sentenced her to nine years in prison.

Griner’s detention has drawn international attention and emerged as a diplomatic standoff between the United States and Russia. Foley’s case, meanwhile, has decidedly flown under the radar.

“The State Department has not granted him ‘wrongfully detained’ status, despite repeated pleas from a bipartisan group of lawmakers and Fogel’s attorneys. (A State Department spokesperson declined to comment on specifics of the Fogel case, saying, “The Department is continually reviewing the circumstances surrounding the detention of U.S. nationals abroad, including those in Russia, at looking for indicators that they are illicit.”) media, Fogel’s detention was overshadowed by coverage of Griner and Paul Whelan, an American businessman and former Marine detained in Russia since 2018 on charges of espionage,” Politics reported Last week.

“It’s a bit of a mystery to me why we [aren’t] talking about three Americans – now, thankfully, two Americans – instead of just one,” said Michael McFaul, the former US ambassador to Russia, Told Politics. “It wasn’t just some random guy who was arrested – he was part of our community…He taught our children, the children of US government officials and he taught the children of our military.”

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