One More American Is Detained in Russia on Drug-Related Charges.!

An American citizen who attempted to enter the country with a little amount of medical marijuana has been imprisoned for more than a year and a half in a number of Russian prisons; however, that American is not Brittney Griner.

Marc Fogel is the name of the prisoner, and unlike Griner, whose release was obtained by the Biden administration in a well-publicized prisoner swap, Fogel’s chances of returning home are still quite uncertain.

Fogel’s story is remarkably similar to that of Griner, whose arrest in Russia in February 2022 has made national headlines. Like Griner, 61-year-old history teacher Fogel from Pennsylvania was detained by Russian authorities in August 2021 after customs officials at a Russian airport found about half an ounce of medical marijuana hidden in his luggage. Fogel lived in Russia while working at the Anglo-American School in Moscow.

Fogel’s reasons for needing the medications, which were provided to him by doctors in the U.S. to assist relieve chronic pain brought on by a number of accidents and operations, were irrelevant. A Russian court found him guilty of drug trafficking charges 10 months later, in June 2022, and handed down a 14-year prison term. Fogel was moved from a detention facility in Moscow to one of Russia’s notorious penal colonies in October, where he will now serve the remainder of his term.

Even though the facts of the Griner case and those of the Fogel case are very similar, the public’s reaction to the two cases has been very different. Griner’s arrest, which occurred just weeks before Russia invaded Ukraine, provoked an international uproar. Many observers contended that Griner had been used as a negotiating chip in Russia’s tense standoff with the United States. Griner was released this week in a one-for-one prisoner swap for Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout after the State Department found that she was being “wrongfully imprisoned” in May.

Fogel, in comparison, hasn’t drawn much notice from the general public. Despite repeated requests from a bipartisan group of senators and Fogel’s attorneys, the State Department has not given him “wrongful detention” designation. (A State Department spokesman declined to comment on the particulars of Fogel’s case, saying:

“The Department regularly evaluates the circumstances underlying the detentions of American citizens abroad, including those in Russia, for evidence that they are unjust.”) Griner and Paul Whelan, an American businessman and former Marine who has been detained in Russia since 2018 on espionage allegations, have received more public attention than Fogel’s captivity.

Former U.S. Government Officials Who Knew Fogel in Moscow Are Still Perplexed by The Case’s Relative Obscurity.

The former U.S. ambassador to Russia, Michael McFaul, whose son was a student of Fogel’s at the Anglo-American School, said, “It’s a bit puzzling to me that we [aren’t] talking about three Americans — now, happily, two Americans — instead of just one.

He was a member of our community, so he’s not just some random man who got caught, claimed McFaul. He instructed our children, the children of American government officials, and the children of our armed forces.

Pressure is building on the Biden administration to focus on Fogel now that Griner has been released. Reiterating earlier requests that the State Department designate Fogel as an unlawful detainee, Reps. Guy Reschenthaler (R-Pa.) and Mike Kelly (R-Pa.) urged on the White House to give Fogel top priority in any future prisoner exchanges on Thursday. While meeting with senior State Department officials, Fogel’s family is still largely in the dark about the progress of any negotiations for his release.

Sister of Marc Fogel Anne Fogel stated in an interview that “we’re not privy to any of that information.” Although they claim to be working on it, we just don’t know.

Russian prosecutors characterized Pennsylvania native Fogel at his trial in Moscow earlier this year as a dangerous drug trafficker with questionable ties to the American government. Fogel’s résumé, however, does not exactly paint a persuasive picture of a dangerous international criminal.

The thirty years prior to Fogel’s incarceration were spent traveling the globe, working as international school teachers, and raising their two kids, Sam and Ethan, according to his sister. She also said that Fogel and his wife, Jane, had always enjoyed living abroad.

The Fogels arrived in Moscow in 2012 after staying in Colombia, Venezuela, Oman, and Malaysia. Marc had been hired to teach history at the posh Anglo-American School, a private school that caters to American diplomats and other foreign political elites.

Marc Fogel was stopped by customs officials at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport in late August 2021 as the Fogels were traveling back to Moscow from a visit to their home in Oakmont, Pennsylvania. This is the same airport where, roughly six months later, Griner would have her first run-in with the Russian authorities.

The authorities discovered some loose marijuana flowers and 14 vape cartridges filled with hash oil in Fogel’s backpack. Fogel had about 17 grams of marijuana in all, which is less than an ounce.

Fogel, who openly admitted using medical marijuana to treat his chronic pain, was charged by the Russian government with planning to sell the cannabis products during the trial. However, Fogel’s attorneys contend that the material does not support the allegations of smuggling in any way.

Tom Firestone, a member of Fogel’s legal team and a former legal advisor to the American embassy in Moscow, stated that the disparity between the punishment and the offense’s nature could only be explained by politics. There have been instances where drug trafficking organization executives received less time in prison than Marc. Some killers have received ten years in prison.

McFaul claims that Fogel’s detention is consistent with Russia’s larger pattern of holding Americans on fabricated charges, giving them abnormally lengthy prison terms, and then using their release to obtain the release of prominent Russian individuals.

For instance, in April of this year, the Kremlin obtained the release of former U.S. Marine Trevor Reed, who had been given a nine-year prison sentence in Russia for getting into a “physical altercation” with a Russian police officer, in exchange for Russian drug smuggler Konstantin Yaroshenko, who had been found guilty in 2011 of bringing over $100 million worth of cocaine into the country.

In order to free [Russian nationals], the Russians have determined that arresting someone like Griner is the best course of action, according to McFaul. Given that they’ve been discussing getting Bout out for years, his release will be a significant success for Putin.

The State Department can also ask that prisoners be released on humanitarian grounds, so a prisoner exchange is not the only way for the U.S. government to secure the release of Americans detained abroad. Nevertheless, a swap is increasingly appearing to be Fogel’s best chance of returning home, according to Firestone. A Russian court dismissed Fogel’s legal appeal in August, and the State Department has not received a response to its request that Russia releases Fogel on humanitarian grounds.

“If those [Griner and Reed’s return through prisoner exchanges] is any indicator, then I think that that’s also Marc’s best shot,” said Firestone. We worry about him being imprisoned in Russia, and we sincerely hope that the administration will take all necessary steps to bring him back as quickly as possible.

Anne Fogel claims that State Department representatives have advised Fogel’s family against pressing for a designation as “unlawfully detained” without providing them with a clear explanation of why obtaining such designation isn’t a crucial step toward achieving his release.

They’re not providing us with any justification, Anne complained. “Honestly, I think it’s quite dishonest,”

Anne interrupted my phone call in the middle of a phrase. The other line was ringing, and she answered it.

She Identified Marc by Saying, “that’s Him on The Phone.” Let Me Give You a Call Back.

My phone rang once more ten minutes later – calls from the jail colony only last for ten minutes.

A hint of sadness could now be heard in Anne’s voice as she replied, “He’s trying to be positive.” “He said that maybe it’s okay if people are talking about it,”

Anne claims that Fogel has always been honest regarding his chances of getting released ahead of Griner. She stated that he was aware of the complicated and unpredictable nature of diplomacy and that, given the option, he believed the government would choose to free Griner, even if it meant leaving him behind for the time being.

Griner’s family is not resentful of her release, but now that she is safe back home, they want Marc to be viewed by the nation in the same light as Griner.

Brittney Griner is just as spectacular as Tom Brady, and if Tom Brady had been arrested, World War III would have taken place, Anne remarked. She claimed that her brother is just as well-known as she is, saying, “If there was a Hall of Fame for history instructors, he would be in it. He is equally as proficient in his specialty.

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