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Trevor Reed's family says he's back in a Russian prison hospital but not getting care

A poster photo of U.S. Marine Corps veteran and Russian prisoner Trevor Reed is hung in Lafayette Park near the White House on Wednesday.
Patrick Semansky
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AP
A poster photo of U.S. Marine Corps veteran and Russian prisoner Trevor Reed is hung in Lafayette Park near the White House on Wednesday.

Trevor Reed started a hunger strike last week to protest his treatment in Russian prison, saying he was not being treated for possible tuberculosis and instead was sent to solitary confinement.

Now the family of the 30-year-old U.S. Marine veteran, who was detained in Russia in 2019, say he is being sent back to the prison medical facility "where he has been numerous times before and received no meaningful medical care." They allege that Russian authorities' recent statements about Reed getting tested and treated for tuberculosis are false and an attempt to manipulate the Western media after bad press in recent days.

In a statement shared by family spokesperson Jonathan Franks, Joey and Paula Reed said their son is experiencing "symptoms consistent with active tuberculosis" and has lost 7 pounds in five days as a result of his hunger strike — which began last Monday and was his second since November.

Russian media reported that Reed ended the strike on Friday, but Franks told NPR over email that he does not have enough reliable information to confirm that.

"The Reeds are not able to confirm an end to Trevor's hunger strike," Franks wrote. "We would invite Russian authorities to let Trevor call his parents."

The family also said they had consulted with Dr. Richard Waldhorn, a pulmonary specialist and former chair of the Department of Medicine at Georgetown University Medical Center, who advised them that untreated tuberculosis has a mortality rate of up to 70%.

"When we dropped our then 28-year-old off at the airport before he left for Russia, he was in excellent health and weighed about 160 pounds. Recently, at the prison 'hospital' he weighed 136 pounds," the Reeds wrote. "We worry every day that Trevor will become the next Otto Warmbier, and even if he doesn't, that he will come home with lifelong consequences from Russian authorities' inattention to his symptoms and their refusal to provide any meaningful medical care."

Warmbier was an American student who was detained in North Korea for over a year. When released, he was in a coma and died shortly afterwards.

Reed was detained during a trip to Russia in 2019 and was sentenced in 2020 to nine years in jail for assaulting a police officer.

He says he was drunk the night of the alleged incident and doesn't remember it, while his family says Russian officials fabricated the charge to use him as a bargaining chip with the U.S. John Sullivan, the U.S. ambassador to Russia, has called his trial "a theater of the absurd" and wrote that the evidence presented against him was so preposterous that "even the judge laughed."

Reed is being held in a correctional facility in the Republic of Mordovia, which his family says is about an eight-hour drive from Moscow. According to his parents, Reed had a "lengthy, close-contact exposure to a prisoner with active tuberculosis" in December and, unlike others in the facility, did not receive preventative care — or sufficient medical treatment as his health "rapidly deteriorated."

His family says the Kremlin "has effectively ignored or frustrated the Embassy's ongoing, heroic efforts to ensure Trevor's health and safety."

The Reeds have long pleaded for help from the U.S. government and publicly criticized President Biden last month after he didn't meet with them while on a trip to their hometown of Fort Worth, Texas.

They instead spoke with him by phone, and he promised his staff would schedule a meeting with them at the White House. After three weeks of waiting, the Reeds protested outside of the White House on Wednesday and have since said they met with the president in the Oval Office for nearly 40 minutes later that day.

In their statement on Monday — five days after their audience with the president — the Reeds again implored the Biden administration to act with urgency, writing that "our son is out of time."

"We would like the Administration to take decisive action to bring Trevor home, including, but not limited to prisoner trades," Franks wrote.


This story originally appeared on the Morning Edition live blog.

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