Fogel is the other American detained in a Russian prison on a marijuana charge. But unlike WNBA superstar Brittney Griner, his case hasn’t gotten international attention.
“I surely hope they won’t keep him for 14 years; if they kept him for 10, that wouldn’t be good either. The uncertainty of it all is brutal,” Anne Fogel, Marc’s sister, said on NewsNation’s “CUOMO.”
Anne Fogel said that while she’s happy about the release of Griner, her family has mixed emotions.
“We’re really kept in the dark on what the issue is of why he (Marc) would be left out of this process. Although, they’ve told us that he’s not left out of the process, that he is always at the top of the conversation … that they are still considering the situation,” Fogel said. “I don’t understand why they’re holding this up. … Unless they believe that he is lawfully there? That he deserves a 14-year punishment for this.”
Marc’s sister pleaded for officials to help get him home too.
“I don’t understand why they’re holding this up unless they believe he is lawfully there, that he deserves a 14-year punishment for this,” she said.
The similarities in Griner’s and Fogel’s cases are striking.
Both were temporarily working in Russia. Fogel was in Russia working as an English teacher. Griner was playing in a summer basketball league.
Both were stopped by customs agents for small amounts of marijuana. Fogel was arrested for half an ounce of doctor-prescribed medicinal marijuana. Griner was arrested for less than 1 gram of cannabis oil.
Both were given unusually harsh sentences. Fogel was sentenced to 14 years to Griner’s 9-year sentence.
But the difference in how the U.S. government has handled each case highlights the often complicated nature of diplomacy around getting Americans detained overseas back home. The State Department makes the call on whether Americans are “wrongfully” detained, like it did in Griner’s case.
If the American overseas meets certain criteria, like being innocent for example or targeted for their American citizenship or held to secure concessions. But for Fogel, despite pressure from his family, lawmakers and attorneys, the state department so far has not said he was wrongfully detained.
U.S. State Department deputy spokesperson Vedant Patel says the process to determine Fogel’s status is ongoing.
“I think every time we make an exchange with a rogue state, with a totalitarian country, with a terrorist group, we are setting a price, in effect, on other Americans,” said former National Security Adviser John Bolton.
While the Biden administration got praise for getting Griner home, they also faced criticism from some for negotiating with Russia in the first place.
And for failing to secure the release of Marine Paul Whelan, who has been detained in Russian prison for three years and counting.
Griner’s release brought attention to dozens of American families whose loved ones are still imprisoned in Russia, Iran, China, Japan, Syria and Venezuela.