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Trevor Reed: US should do ‘absolutely everything’ to free illegally detained Americans

Trevor Reed, a former U.S. Marine released from Russia in a prisoner exchange last month after spending 985 days in prison, said U.S. authorities must do “absolutely everything” in their power to free Americans held illegally in the stranger.

“We must do absolutely everything we can as Americans to defend Americans illegally detained overseas and do everything we can to get them out. We have to do this,” Reed said in an interview that aired Sunday with CNN’s Jake Tapper.

While Reed was able to return home to Texas, Paul Whelan, an American business executive and Navy veteran, has been detained in Russia since 2018 and was sentenced to 16 years for espionage. WNBA player Brittney Griner, who was arrested in February after being charged with drug trafficking in the country, is being held in remand until at least June.

Reed said he initially thought Whelan would also return to the United States with him, and it was “difficult” when he realized that was not the case.

“The point is, the United States should have gotten him out, and we have to get him out at all costs,” Reed said.

Paul Whelan, a former US Marine charged with espionage in Russia, holds a message as he stands inside a cage of defendants ahead of a hearing to decide whether to extend his detention at Lefortovo court in Moscow, on October 24, 2019.

Dimitar Dilkoff/AFP via Getty Images

Reed also praised President Joe Biden’s role in restoring his freedom.

“I mean, he was the most important part of that decision being made by the President of the United States, and I think President Biden made the right one.”

Reed spoke at length about how he ended up in detention, saying that the detention of Whelan, another Marine, almost prevented him from going to the country. Eventually he decided to spend the summer with his Russian girlfriend Lina, who worked as a lawyer.

After a night out in August 2019, Reed felt sick on the side of the road, where police picked him up and took him to the police station to sober up. While initially told he would be free to go, a shift change at the police station changed Reed’s life.

“I waited about 10 minutes – for Lina to arrive, and during those 10 minutes the team changed at the police station and the new officers arrived with a new police chief,” Reed said. “He saw I was speaking English with duty there, and he asked why this American is here, and after about three minutes they came back and told me I couldn’t leave.”

He was eventually sentenced to nine years in prison. Reed detailed the horrific conditions he experienced inside his cell.

“There is blood all over the walls where prisoners have committed suicide or killed other prisoners or attempted to do so,” Reed said. “The toilet is just a hole in the floor and there’s, you know, shit everywhere, all over the floor, on the walls. There are also people in there walking around looking like zombies.

Last week, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said he spoke with Griner’s wife to assure her that the State Department was working tirelessly to bring Griner home.

A State Department spokesperson confirmed Friday that a consular was able to visit the WNBA player in prison for the second time in a week, according to ESPN.

Meanwhile, the NBA and WNBA are aiding efforts for Griner’s release. If convicted, Griner could face up to 10 years in prison, according to The Associated Press.

Trevor Reed: US should do ‘absolutely everything’ to free illegally detained Americans
Brittney Griner of the United States steps onto the court during the Women’s Basketball Gold Medal Game against Japan at the 2020 Summer Olympics on August 8, 2021, in Saitama, Japan.

Luca Bruno via Associated Press

Elizabeth Whelan, Paul Whelan’s sister, told CNN she would like to see the president “finish the job” and secure the release of all those wrongfully detained.

“What we’re going through is ― is extraordinary. And so I would say to the president, please bring my brother home and bring them all home,” Whelan said.

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