House United In Call For Release Of Americans Detained in Russia, Including Medical Marijuana Patient

The House unanimously approved a resolution this week calling on Russia to “immediately release” Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich.

Arrested in March, Gershkovich, 31, is being detained and charged with espionage - the first time Russia has accused an American journalist of spying since the Cold War. 

Support For All Americans Detained In Russia

The resolution also expressed support for “all American citizens and lawful permanent residents detained in Russia and abroad, including Marc Fogel, who faces a politicized, excessive sentence for his alleged offense.”

Who Is Marc Fogel?

Fogel, who was connected to the U.S. Embassy in Moscow, worked as an English teacher at the Anglo-American School also in Moscow. At the time of his arrest, Fogel had a doctor's recommendation for medical marijuana from a physician in Pennsylvania to treat chronic back pain.

Fogel, who is in his 60s, argued that he was not aware that medical

marijuana was illegal in Russia.

Despite this, Fogel was sentenced on June 16, 2022, to 14 years of hard labor.

Last week Senator Steve Daines (R-MT) and former U.S. Ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul published an open letter to Secretary of State Antony Blinken urging the Biden Administration to “immediately designate Mr. Marc Fogel as wrongfully detained and prioritize securing his release.”

“Given the charges he is facing are similar to those of Brittney Griner, who was deemed to be wrongfully detained, similar actions by the State Department are warranted and every effort to secure his release should be made, including designating him as wrongfully detained,” they wrote.

WNBA star Brittney Griner was declared “wrongfully detained” by the Biden administration two months after she was detained at a Moscow airport in February 2022 for having cannabis oil in her suitcase. 

The US government also declared Gershkovich "wrongfully detained" one month after he was detained.

Wrongfully Detained: Why The Designation Is So Important

The change in official designation normally signals a significant shift in how officials work to gain the release of a US prisoner held in a foreign country.

With a declaration of wrongfully detained, supervision of the person's case is taken up by a specialized State Department section that focuses on negotiating for the release of captives.

The designation empowers the government to use a variety of tools, including diplomacy rather than simply waiting for a criminal case to make its way through the system.

 

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Posted In: CannabisNewsPoliticsMarketsGeneralBrittney GrinerEvan GershkovichMarc Fogelmedical marijuanawrongful detention designation
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