Don’t Abandon Teacher Imprisoned in Russia

Target: Anthony Blinken, U.S. Secretary of State

Goal: Secure release of wrongfully detained American citizen from Russian prison.

An American who has traveled to Russia is detained at the airport. The person is arrested after cannabis is discovered in luggage. Drug smuggling charges are soon brought. The basic details of this case may make many think of WNBA star Brittney Griner, who met this fate earlier in the year. These circumstances befell another American, however, nearly a year ago: Marc Fogel. The similarities end here, though. For the basketball celebrity and the 6o-year-old teacher, their nation’s approach to their plights have dramatically diverged.

In Griner’s case, the Department of State declared her “wrongfully detained” fairly quickly. They are currently negotiating a deal that would send her, along with fellow detainee Paul Whelan, home in exchange for the release of Russian prisoners, including a notorious arms dealer. In addition, the family of Griner has received personal phone calls from the Department of State and from President Biden himself.

In stark contrast, Fogel’s family has received no such assurances. To this day, the American government has still not declared him “wrongfully detained,” even though his family maintains he carried marijuana for medical purposes only. And his physical pain will only increase substantially, as he was just sentenced to 14 years in a hard labor penal colony. Fogel’s wife has expressed fears that her beloved husband will be “left behind,” and his own government’s lack of action seems to validate her concern.

Sign the petition below to demand leaders work equally hard for every wrongfully detained American.


Dear Secretary Blinken,

“That hurt”: these words came from detained American Marc Fogel in the wake of reports that the Department of State was acting with urgency to free two other Americans, but not himself. This man has spent nearly a year behind Russian bars, and a court has ensured he will spend 14 more years in the same living hell. For the 60-year-old, this harsh sentence for the “crime” of possessing medical marijuana could be both a life and a death sentence.

Fogel was not in Russia for nefarious purposes. He devoted his time as a teacher to educating the children of American diplomats. His journey was both a public service and a service to his government. And what has his government done for him in return? You have reportedly not reached out to his family, nor have you (in the year since his arrest) declared him wrongfully detained. And his name is glaringly absent from the list of Americans whom you have prioritized for liberation. As Mr. Fogel lamented, “teachers are at least as important.”

His wife adds, “I have a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach that Marc will be left behind.” Please do not prove her right. Don’t leave Marc Fogel behind.


[Your Name Here]

Photo Credit: Cameron Casey

One Comment

  1. Myrna Lipman says:

    I don’t know the behind-the-scene details but on face value, this is a common inequity and injustice in American society where people of fame get special consideration and treatment. It makes no sense that Mr. Fogel should not be afforded the same consideration as Ms. Griner. I hope Mr. Fogel will be included in the negotiations of the proposed prisoner swap of Ms. Griner and Mr. Whelan. It seems like the right thing to do.

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