Senators Urge U.S. State Department to Reclassify Fogel Case

United States Department of State

WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) announced that he is leading a bipartisan coalition of Senators to push for the reclassification of Marc Fogel’s case as “wrongfully detained” under the Robert Levinson Hostage Recovery and Hostage-Taking Accountability Act. Mr. Fogel, a U.S. citizen and resident of Oakmont, Pennsylvania, is currently imprisoned in Russia and was recently sentenced to 14 years at a maximum-security penal colony for possession of less than an ounce of medical marijuana. The Senators are sending a letter to U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, urging the U.S. State Department to reclassify Mr. Fogel’s case so he can receive the level of support awarded to political prisoners and eventually secure his freedom.

Senator Casey was joined by U.S. Senators Marco Rubio (R-FL), Jon Tester (D-MT), Steve Daines (R-MT), John Hickenlooper (D-CO), Pat Toomey (R-PA), Joe Manchin (D-WV), Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) and Tim Kaine (D-VA) in sending the letter to Secretary Blinken.

“Mr. Fogel’s recent 14-year sentence to a maximum-security penal colony for possession of less than an ounce of medical marijuana can only be understood as a political ploy by Vladimir Putin’s authoritarian regime. Mr. Fogel, a 61-year-old with severe medical conditions, has already been detained for a year. The United States cannot stand by as Mr. Fogel wastes away in a Russian hard labor camp,” wrote the Senators.

The Senators also wrote, “We strongly urge the State Department to shift its strategy given the realities of Marc Fogel’s situation and act immediately to designate him as ‘wrongfully detained.’ Such a designation will provide the warranted level of support to Marc Fogel’s family after a year of communication with Mr. Fogel only via mail and, most importantly, will require the U.S. Special Presidential Envoy for Hostage Affairs to secure Mr. Fogel’s freedom.  We cannot allow Mr. Fogel to be used as a political pawn by Vladimir Putin.”

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Marc Fogel is a resident of Oakmont, Pennsylvania and has served as an international educator for 35 years. He was detained in Russia in August 2021 for possession of 17 grams of marijuana, prescribed by a doctor for his chronic pain.

The Senators point out that Mr. Fogel meets six of the eleven criteria to be designated “wrongfully detained” as established in the Robert Levinson Hostage Recovery and Hostage-Taking Accountability Act, including the criterion that his detainment is being used substantially to influence U.S. policy. The Senators also note that Mr. Fogel’s disproportionate 14-year sentence for possession of 17 grams of marijuana is most comparable to sentences handed down to serious drug traffickers, like that of Guido Guillermo Walters, who received 15 years in Russian prison for the contraband and sale of more than 105,000 grams of cocaine. The Levinson criteria confirm that Mr. Fogel is being held as a political prisoner, thus requiring the reclassification of his case as “wrongfully detained.”

Read the letter to Secretary Blinken here.

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