Families of American prisoners released in Russia call on Biden

Families of American prisoners released in Russia call on Biden

The family of Trevor Reed, released in a prisoner exchange with Russia last week, called on the government to act on other Americans held abroad - including fellow Marine Paul Whelan and WNBA star Brittany Griner - during a Wednesday rally outside the White House.

Reed, a 30 year-old from Texas, served nearly three years in Russian jail before he was returned to the U.S. last week in a prisoner exchange with Russia.

Reed's father, Joey Reed, spoke at the Bring Our Families Home rally in Lafayette Square, saying his son is recovering at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, Texas, under the care of Army experts.

He wanted to be here today. He is very upset about Paul Whelan, a Marine Marine who was left behind. Joey Reed said we were not going to come, and my son said we needed to be here.

Whelan is a Michigan corporate security executive and former U.S. Marine who has been held in Russia since 2018 on espionage-related charges, which his family denies.

Joey Reed said prisoner exchanges may be the best way to bring Americans back home.

Sometimes, the Americans want to trade for them, but they have someone they have here that they want to get back, he said. In Reed's case, President Joe Biden commuted the sentence of Konstantin Yaroshenko, a convicted Russian drug trafficker serving time in Connecticut.

Our son was in squalid third world conditions in Russia, which is typical there, versus the prisoners they want back. They are living in comfortable minimal security conditions with cable TV, air-conditioning, good food and talk to their family in their native language on a regular basis. He said that all of the families behind us are deprived of any of those things.

We need our president and government to bring them home and not wait so long to do it. He also touched on Griner's case.

The Star Center for the Phoenix Mercury was arrested in February on drug charges after a search of her luggage at the Sheremetyevo airport near Moscow turned up vape cartridges containing oil derived from cannabis, according to authorities.

The State Department classified her as wrongfully detained by the Russian government on Tuesday. It took our son a year to get that classification, Joey Reed said. We are so glad that it took only a short time to classify Miss Griner as wrongfully detained. The family was able to meet with Biden thanks to the support of the public and media attention on Reed's case.

He said he wants to do the right thing for all of these families.

Elizabeth Whelan, the sister of Paul Whelan, spoke at the gathering.

Paul Whelan was held for 1,224 days. She said that was about three years and four months.

She said her brother was first held in a notorious prison and is now in a labor camp.

It is like entering a labyrinth where you don't know where your loved one is, you don't know who is going to help you along the way. We need our government to help get our loved ones home. She said that this is not something that families can do themselves.

She called on the White House to address cases of American hostages and detainees abroad because it's a growing problem. According to the Bring Our Families Home campaign, 55 Americans are currently held or wrongfully detained overseas. At least 16 of those being held could come home through a prisoner swap, according to the group.

The Whelans need the White House to bring my brother home. Trevor Reed has been reunited with his family after the release. She said that was fantastic news. But everyone else is waiting, stuck in the labyrinth, still waiting for that door to open and our loved one to walk through.