Kelly, Reschenthaler, Daines urge Russia to release U.S. citizen Marc Fogel

U.S. Reps. Mike Kelly (R-PA) and Guy Reschenthaler (R-PA), along with U.S. Sen. Steve Daines (R-MT), on July 26 introduced a bipartisan, bicameral resolution that calls for the immediate release of U.S. citizen and teacher Marc Fogel, who has been imprisoned in Russia since August 2021 for carrying medical marijuana.

Rep. Reschenthaler is the lead original cosponsor of House Concurrent Resolution (H.Con.Res.) 60 with sponsor U.S. Rep. Chris Deluzio (D-PA) and 13 other original cosponsors, including Rep. Kelly and U.S. Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA). Sen. Daines cosponsored S.Con.Res. 18 in the U.S. Senate alongside sponsor U.S. Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA) and two other original cosponsors.

“This week marks another year Marc Fogel will spend his birthday unjustly imprisoned in a Russian penal colony instead of with his loving family in the Pittsburgh area,” Rep. Reschenthaler said. “It’s past time for the Biden administration to bring Marc home and reunite him with his loved ones.”

“This legislation reaffirms our collective commitment to bring Marc Fogel home,” added Rep. Kelly. “No American should be left behind, and I pray Mr. Fogel will be reunited with his wonderful family as soon as possible.”

“Marc Fogel has spent years as a teacher shaping the next generation of leaders and this week is his 62nd birthday, but instead of celebrating with his friends and family, Marc will be spending it unjustly detained in a Russian labor camp,” Sen. Daines said on Wednesday. “I’ve worked closely with Marc’s family, former Ambassador McFaul and my colleagues in the Senate to urge the Biden administration to do everything they can to bring him home safely and I won’t stop until he is released.”

Specifically, the resolution states that Fogel was given “an unjust and disproportionate criminal sentence by the Government of the Russian Federation in June 2022,” according to the text.

Fogel taught at the Anglo-American School of Moscow from 2012 to 2021, serving the children of United States diplomats and members of the U.S. Armed Forces, the bill says, and he has undergone three back surgeries, a spinal fusion, a hip replacement, and two knee surgeries to correct various injuries and health issues, which have left him with chronic back pain and a permanent limp. Fogel did not wish to use opioids to manage his pain and was instead prescribed medical marijuana for pain management in a manner consistent with state law in Pennsylvania.

On Aug. 14, 2021, as he returned to Russia for one final year of teaching before his intended retirement, Fogel was arrested in the Sheremetyevo airport in Moscow for carrying about half an ounce of medical marijuana in his luggage that was intended solely for personal consumption, the text says.

However, on June 16, 2022, a Russian court convicted Fogel of “large-scale drugs smuggling” in a politicized show trial and sentenced him to 14 years in a maximum-security penal colony in Russia.

With Fogel’s physical and mental health “rapidly declining” due to the stress and harsh conditions of his detention, his family fears he will not survive his sentence, according to the resolution’s text. 

In the resolution, the lawmakers urge all U.S. executive branch officials, including President Joseph Biden, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, and Special Presidential Envoy for Hostage Affairs Roger Carstens, “to raise the case of Fogel and to press for his immediate release in all interactions with the Government of the Russian Federation.”

The lawmakers also urge Russia’s government “to desist from issuing outlandishly disproportionate criminal sentences to nonviolent United States citizens.”

“For too long, we have pressed the Biden administration to declare Mr. Fogel as wrongfully detained by the Russian government,” said Rep. Kelly. “This legislation not only reinforces our support for Mr. Fogel, but it also expresses our deepest sympathy for Marc’s mother, Malphine Fogel, who is my constituent and whom I have met with personally as we work to bring Marc home.”