Sen. Bob Casey 'not satisfied' with Biden administration's handling of Marc Fogel's case
PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Amid the fanfare of the release of WNBA star Brittney Griner from a Russian prison, family members and supporters of Marc Fogel say the Biden administration remains silent on his imprisonment.
The teacher and Oakmont native is serving a 14-year sentence in a Russian penal colony, but the U.S. government has yet to designate him as being wrongfully detained or confirm they working to secure his release.
"It's like he doesn't exist, and I don't think that's fair," Marc Fogel's mother, Malphine Fogel, said.
Marc Fogel's mom can't understand why after 15 months in prison, the government isn't doing more to get her son home. Like Griner, Fogel was convicted of possessing a small amount of medical marijuana, but unlike the now-released basketball star, the U.S. State Department is reluctant to speak about his detainment or classify him as being wrongfully detained.
"The most important thing is to get him designated as wrongfully detained because it seems that is what has to be done first," Malphine Fogel said. "But they haven't done it yet. Why I don't know."
KDKA-TV's Andy Sheehan: "Have you gotten any answers from the State Department?"
U.S. Senator Bob Casey: "I've certainly gotten answers, but I'm not satisfied at all with where the administration has been on this."
The Biden administration is also actively working to release former Marine Paul Whalen, whom it has also designated as being wrongfully detained by the Russian government. But in his direct talks with the White House and Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Senator Casey said he can't get a straight answer as to why Marc Fogel hasn't been given that status.
"He's a political pawn, simple as that," Casey said. "I think his case certainly meets the criteria for so-called wrongful detainment. They've had this case a long time, and so I'm very concerned about the fact that determination has not been yet been made."
In an email to KDKA, the State Department would only confirm it is monitoring Fogel's situation. And in interviews in recent days, Biden administration officials were reluctant to discuss the case, saying it's still under review.
The family attorney says that's hard to fathom.
"He's been locked up now since August of 2021," Thomas Firestone, the family's attorney, said. "So I don't know what more information they could be looking to get in order to make this determination."
While praising Griner's release, Senator Casey says he still cannot understand why the administration isn't openly pursuing Fogel's freedom, calling it a mystery.
"I'm very happy that Brittney Griner's home," Casey said. "That was a great effort by the administration. Mr. Whalen as well, they're working on that case. But we need time and attention on Marc Fogel's case, and I'm not seeing nearly enough attention paid to his case by the administration."
Senator Casey said he's hopeful this silence on the part of the Biden administration is a strategy to secure Fogel's release, but he says he hasn't been told what that might be and says he'll keep pushing for transparency and actions.
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