While Brittney Griner enjoys being home in the U.S. after a much-publicized prison stay in Russia, another American with a similar case continues to be imprisoned.
Marc Fogel, who, like Griner, attempted to enter Russia with a small quantity of marijuana, has been jailed by Moscow officials for nearly a year and a half.
Griner, who was detained in Russia in February 2022, returned to the U.S. two weeks ago after the Biden administration secured her release in a high-profile prisoner swap.
Much attention also has been given to American businessman and former Marine Paul Whelan, held in Russia since 2018 on espionage charges.
Little publicity has been given to the case of Fogel, 61, a teacher from Pennsylvania who lived in Russia while teaching at the Anglo-American School in Moscow.
"It's a bit mysterious to me why we [aren't] talking about three Americans — now, thankfully, two Americans — instead of just one," Michael McFaul, former U.S. ambassador to Russia, told Politico.
McFaul's son was a Fogel student at the Anglo-American School.
"He's not just some random guy that got arrested — he was part of our community," McFaul told Politico. "He taught our kids, the kids of U.S. government officials and he taught our military's kids."
Fogel was taken into custody by Russian authorities in August 2021, when airport customs officials discovered about half an ounce of medical marijuana in his luggage.
The drugs had been prescribed to Fogel by U.S. doctors to help treat chronic pain stemming from a series of injuries and operations, Politico reported.
In June, Fogel was convicted of drug trafficking charges and sentenced to 14 years in prison. He was transferred from a Moscow detention center to one of Russia's penal colonies in October.
Griner was released in a one-for-one prisoner exchange with Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout. That swap happened after the State Department in May determined that Griner was being "wrongfully detained."
The State Department has not granted Fogel the same status despite repeated appeals from a bipartisan group of lawmakers and Fogel's lawyers.
Reps. Guy Reschenthaler, R-Pa., and Mike Kelly, R-Pa., have called on the White House to prioritize Fogel for future prisoner exchanges.
Fogel family members have met with State Department officials but know little about any negotiations for Fogel's release.
"We're not privy to any of that information," said Anne Fogel, Marc's sister, told Politico. "They're telling us that they're working on it, but we just don't know."
Anne Fogel said State Department officials have discouraged the prisoner's family from aggressively pursuing an "unlawfully detained" designation.
"They're not giving us any reason at all," Anne Fogel told Politico. "I feel it's pretty disingenuous, frankly."
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