PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — A teacher from Oakmont who's been detained in Russia for more than a year remains in custody.
This summer, Butler native Marc Fogel was sentenced to 14 years in a maximum security prison after he was caught with 17 grams of medical marijuana for a spine condition.
On Thursday morning, President Biden's administration announced the United States and Russia had agreed to a one-for-one prisoner swap, exchanging arms dealer Viktor Bout for WNBA star Brittney Griner.
Earlier this week, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the United States was actively engaged with Russia over a possible prisoner swap to free Brittney Griner and Paul Whelan, who were in Russian custody.
The U.S. State Department had previously asked Russia to release American citizen Fogel on humanitarian grounds. Prior to that request, a group of nine bipartisan senators called on Secretary of State Antony Blinken to immediately designate Fogel as "wrongfully detained."
On Instagram, Fogel's family said Griner's release is "great news, and we are glad she is coming home. However, we need to make sure another American - Marc Fogel - does not get left behind."
"Marc has been sentenced to 14 years in a hard labor camp," the Instagram post said. "This sentence is extremely disproportionate to his crime, absurd by even Russian standards. It is a clear effort to make him a political pawn."
Rep. Guy Reschenthaler (PA-14) was among another group of lawmakers who asked the State Department to immediately classify Fogel as wrongfully detained and to include him in any potential exchange that might include Griner and former Marine Paul Whelan.
"I will continue to relentlessly advocate for Pittsburgh native Marc Fogel's release and for the State Department to classify him as wrongfully detained, something they have failed to do since his detainment in August 2021," Reschenthaler said in a statement.
The U.S. State Department provided a statement to KDKA saying:
"We take seriously our commitment to assist U.S. citizens abroad and providing all appropriate consular assistance. We continue to insist that Russa allow consistent, timely, consular access to all U.S. citizen detainees. We urge the Russian government to ensure fair treatment and appropriate medical care for all U.S. citizens detained in Russia."
Fogel's family has started a change.org petition to help bring Fogel home. Click here for more.
for more features.