Trevor Reed, a 30-year-old former Marine who has been held in Russia for almost two years on what his family claims are bogus accusations, has gone on hunger strike, his family said Monday.
It’s a significant step forward in Reed’s fight for his freedom, with his family expressing mounting dissatisfaction with the Biden administration for not doing enough, according to them.
“While we are tremendously proud of our son’s strength of character, we are also extremely concerned about his health,” his parents Joey and Paula, as well as his sister Taylor, wrote in a statement released Monday.
Reed began his hunger strike last Thursday, Nov. 4, according to his Russian lover. His family confirmed the news through his Russian counsel, who said he is protesting “his arbitrary incarceration and Russian authorities’ repeated and egregious violations of his basic human rights and rights under Russian law” in a statement released Monday.
Reed has been in solitary confinement for nearly three months, and he hasn’t spoken to his family in nearly four months. The former Marine presidential guard has been detained in Russia since August 2019, after being sentenced to nine years in prison for assaulting two police officers last July. The trial has been dubbed “absurd” by the US embassy in Moscow, as the two policemen struggled to recollect the purported encounter in court sessions and continually contradicted themselves.
Reed has been held in a labour camp in the remote Mordovia region for months, confined to a small cell with no toilet, and supplies sent for him by US Ambassador to Russia John Sullivan on a visit in September have not been given to him by prison officials, according to his family.
“Our anxiety is heightened by Russian authorities’ choice to detain Trevor incommunicado, making it hard for us or the Embassy to keep track of his condition,” they stated.
There was hope and speculation of a prisoner swap after President Joe Biden met with Russian President Vladimir Putin in June, especially because Biden said he discussed his case and that of Paul Whelan, another American citizen held by Russia.
However, no agreement was made in the weeks and months that followed, and a family representative informed ABC News that no talks to liberate Reed are now underway.
The Reed family encouraged the Biden administration to swap one of the two Russians whose names have been offered publicly by Russian state media and senior Russian officials as a potential trade in their statement. Viktor Bout, dubbed the “Merchant of Death” for his prolific work as an arms dealer, is serving a 25-year sentence in federal prison in the United States, while Konstantin Yaroshenko is serving a 20-year sentence for attempting to smuggle cocaine and other illicit drugs into the United States as a pilot.
Reed’s relatives say they’ve been “patient,” but it’s evident they’re becoming increasingly agitated and anguished. They expressed hope on Monday that Biden and his national security advisor, Jake Sullivan, will “find the time to see us” when they return to Washington, and that they will “find the political will to bring our son home.”
The State Department, on the other hand, was brief on the matter, saying they “look forward to our son receiving” the administration’s attention for his hunger strike. The agency is aware of rumours of Reed’s hunger strike, according to spokeswoman Ned Price, but he declined to speak further due to privacy concerns.
Ambassador Sullivan last visited Reed in prison camp on Sept. 22 and plans to visit him and Whelan again this month, according to Price.
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