This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.
A former employee of the U.S. Embassy in Moscow has been handed a 14-year prison term in Russia for illegal drug trafficking after he was caught entering the country with medical marijuana he says was prescribed to him after back surgery.
A court in the town of Khimki near Moscow said on June 17 that U.S. citizen Marc Fogel, who works as a teacher at the Anglo-American School in the Russian capital, was sentenced the day before.
According to the court statement, Fogel, who was detained in August last year upon his arrival with his wife in Moscow from New York, pleaded guilty.
Fogel says he had medical papers explicitly showing the marijuana was prescribed by doctors and that it was solely for medical use.
Fogel was quoted at the time as saying that he had not known that medical marijuana was illegal in Russia. His lawyers said then that Russian authorities had found 17 grams of marijuana in his possession.
U.S. officials have yet to comment on Fogel’s sentencing.
Fogel is one of several Americans incarcerated in Russia in recent years on charges that their families, supporters, and in some cases the U.S. government, have said appear trumped up.
Former U.S. Marine Paul Whelan was sentenced by a court in Moscow to 16 years in prison in May 2020 on espionage charges condemned by the United States as a “mockery of justice.”
Another former U.S. Marine, Trevor Reed, was sentenced to nine years in prison in July 2020 after being arrested and charged with assaulting two Russian police officers in 2019, which he denied. He was released in a prisoner swap in April.
Another American whose detention by Russian authorities has drawn criticism is basketball star Brittney Griner. She was arrested in February at a Moscow airport after the authorities said a scan of her luggage revealed vape cartridges containing hash oil.
Griner, who played for a Russian professional basketball team, could face up to 10 years in prison if convicted on illegal drug charges. She has pleaded not guilty and the United States has designated her as “wrongfully detained.”