Reschenthaler sponsors resolution to help American teacher imprisoned in Russia

U.S. Rep. Guy Reschenthaler (R-PA) recently led the introduction of a resolution of inquiry to pressure the Biden Administration to designate a teacher from Pennsylvania that was imprisoned in Russia as “wrongly detained.” 

Marc Fogel, a native of Butler County, Pa., has taught history at schools attended by the children of U.S. diplomats in Columbia, Venezuela, Oman, Malaysia, and, for the last 10 years, in Russia. 

Fogel was arrested by Russian authorities on Aug. 14, 2021, in the Sheremetyevo Airport with a small amount of medical marijuana that had been prescribed to him by a U.S. doctor to treat his chronic back pain. Nonetheless, on June 16 Fogel was sentenced to 14 years of hard labor in a Russian prison. 

Rep. Reschenthaler led bipartisan letters to Secretary of State Antony Blinken urging the State Department to prioritize securing the release of Fogel. 

“As a former district judge and U.S. Navy JAG, I know when I’m being stonewalled,” Rep. Reschenthaler said. Under federal law, Fogel meets at least six of the eleven established criteria to be designated as “wrongfully detained” by the State Department, the congressman’s office said.

“Yet as his health rapidly deteriorates ahead of his transfer to a hard-labor penal colony, the Biden Administration is still making excuses rather than following the letter of the law,” Rep. Reschenthaler added. “They owe Congress an explanation for their inaction.” 

Rep. Reschenthaler sponsored House Resolution 1456 on Nov. 3, along with cosponsors U.S. Reps. Glenn ‘GT’ Thompson (R-PA) and Mike Kelly (R-PA). 

According to the text of the resolution, the inquiry requests that President Joe Biden direct the Secretary of State to transmit all documents to the U.S. House of Representatives relating to the review conducted by the State Department for Fogel to be designated as “wrongfully detained.”

“As the Russian government continues its hostilities toward Americans, we must have complete access to the full report regarding Mr. Fogel’s detainment, trial, and sentencing,” Rep. Thompson said. “It is imperative the State Department exhausts all efforts to return him to his family here in the United States.” 

Rep. Kelly said Fogel’s family deserves answers from the Biden Administration. 

“With this resolution, it is my hope that the State Department will elevate this case, properly designate Marc as ‘wrongfully detained,’ and work to secure his timely release for Marc, his Western Pennsylvania family, and supporters across the globe.”