Home News Former Marine in Russian prison starts hunger strike over isolation, dubious case

Former Marine in Russian prison starts hunger strike over isolation, dubious case

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Emily Caldwell

The Dallas Morning News

WASHINGTON — Trevor Reed, the former U.S. Marine and Fort Worth native serving a nine-year prison sentence in Russia, has been on a hunger strike for five days to protest his detention and the violation of his rights.

“We have received a report from an attorney that Trevor has begun a hunger strike to protest his arbitrary detention and Russian authorities’ numerous and flagrant violations of his basic human rights and his rights under Russian law,” Reed’s family said in a statement Monday. “While we are immensely proud of our son’s strength of character, we are also extremely worried about his health.”

This marks the latest in a series of demonstrations Reed, convicted of endangering Russian police and jailed in July 2020, and his family have made to draw attention to the case. U.S. officials have said both Reed and Paul Whelan, another former Marine imprisoned in Russia, are serving time for trumped-up charges, most likely pretexts for holding them as bargaining chips in hopes of trading for Russian spies.

Reed’s family has been unable to speak with him for 117 days as of Tuesday. They called on the Biden administration to produce a “strong response.”

“Trevor’s job in the Marines was to take a bullet for President (Joe) Biden and his family,” his parents Joey and Paula and sister Taylor said. “We hope that when we return to Washington next month that both the president we voted for and his national security adviser will find the time to see us.”

In the military, Reed had served as a Marine presidential guard, whose assignments include providing security at Camp David when President Barack Obama was there.

U.S. ex-Marine Trevor Reed, charged with attacking police, adjusts his face mask while standing inside a defendants’ cage during his verdict hearing at Moscow’s Golovinsky district court on July 30, 2020. (Dimitar Dilkoff/AFP via Getty Images/TNS)

Regional prison authorities in Mordovia, where Reed is being held, denied his rights were being abused or that he was on hunger strike. “He is eating in line with the daily schedule,” authorities told Reuters.

Reed’s Russian girlfriend told ABC News that he started his hunger strike last Thursday after nearly three months in solitary confinement.

Reed, 29, was arrested in Moscow in 2019 after he got drunk and allegedly grabbed the arm of an officer as he was being driven to a police station. Prosecutors said he caused the vehicle to swerve and endangered the lives of officers. The U.S. ambassador at the time dismissed the allegation as “preposterous.” Video from traffic cameras showed no evidence of swerving.

Numerous members of Congress have advocated for the release of Whelan and Reed, whose family now lives in Granbury, Texas. Rep. August Pfluger, R-Texas, whose district includes Granbury, has repeatedly called on Russian strongman Vladimir Putin to end Reed’s imprisonment.

“Texan and Marine Veteran Trevor Reed has been wrongfully imprisoned in Russia for 815 days,” Pfluger tweeted Tuesday. “As the deplorable conditions he is being held in continue to worsen, I join his family in again calling on the Putin Regime to @FreeTrevorReed.”

In July, a half-dozen members of Congress joined the Reed and Whelan families, promising an escalation of pressure until Russia releases the men. A day earlier, a Moscow appeals court had rejected Reed’s request to overturn his sentence.

Reed’s current hunger strike is not the first time his family has been concerned about his health. In May, he was diagnosed with COVID-19.

“We are gravely concerned about his health,” the U.S. embassy said at the time, adding that the facility where Reed had been hospitalized had refused to provide updates on his health. “We insist that this brazen attempt to isolate Mr. Reed from both his family and his government immediately cease.”

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©2021 The Dallas Morning News. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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