As the Russian trial of American basketball star Brittney Griner continues, Griner has drawn a comparison to another American detained in Russia. That American is Marc Fogel, a teacher and former employee at the U.S. embassy in Moscow.
The two’s cases are similar. Both Fogel and Griner were charged with smuggling drugs into Russia. They had cannabis products inside luggage at a Russian airport. They also both had doctor’s notes recommending cannabis for medicinal purposes.
The difference between the two is the U.S. government declared Griner as wrongfully detained. Without that classification from the U.S. government, Fogel was convicted and sentenced to 14 years hard labor in Russia last month.
“We are aware of reports of a U.S. citizen sentenced in Russia,” State Department spokesperson Ned Price said a day after Fogel’s sentencing. “We take seriously our responsibility to assist U.S. citizens abroad, and are monitoring the situation.”
There have been no updates from the U.S. Embassy regarding Fogel’s condition since he was sentenced. Family members said the 61-year-old retired teacher with a spinal injury won’t make it in a Russian hard labor camp for 14 years.
Meanwhile, the U.S. Embassy continues to check in with Griner and provide updates as the American basketball star appeared in court for her Russia trial for the second straight day Wednesday.
“We were able to spend time with Miss Griner, talk to her, ask her about her welfare,” U.S. Embassy spokesperson Elizabeth Rood said Tuesday. “She confirms that she is doing okay and as well as can be expected under these circumstances.”
Griner testified Wednesday, saying an interpreter translated only a fraction of what was said during questioning when she was detained at Moscow’s airport in February and that officials told her to sign documents without explaining what they said. She also said she received received neither an explanation of her rights nor access to a lawyer during the initial hours of her detention.
“The position of the defense is not that Brittney was allowed to bring any prohibited substances to Russian Federation,” Griner lawyer Alexander Boykov said Tuesday. “We continue to insist that, while packing suitcase, she didn’t pay attention that substances allowed in U.S. were in that suitcase negligently, in a hurry. She did it unintentionally.”