Ex-U.S. Marine Trevor Reed begins hunger strike to protest Russia prison

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Nov. 9 (UPI) — Former U.S. Marine Trevor Reed — who was sentenced to nine years in prison in Russia for assaulting two police officers in 2019 — has begun a hunger strike to protest his conditions in jail, his family and attorneys said Tuesday.

Reed, 30, was tried, convicted for the altercation with officers while he was intoxicated after a night of drinking in Moscow. His attorneys say it’s the harshest sentence ever imposed in Russia for the charge.

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The Texas-born Reed started a hunger strike on Thursday to protest what his family says are inhumane conditions in prison.

Reed embarked on the strike to draw attention to “violations of his basic human rights and his rights under Russian law,” his family said, according to ABC News.

The former Marine has been held in isolation at a labor camp in the Mordovia region for nearly three months. His cell doesn’t include a toilet, and he’s been denied items that were brought to him by U.S. Ambassador to Russia John Sullivan in September.

“While we are immensely proud of our son’s strength of character, we are also extremely worried about his health,” Reed’s family told CBS News. “Our concern is magnified by Russian authorities’ decision to hold Trevor incommunicado, which makes it impossible for us or the [U.S.] Embassy to monitor his health.”

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“Trevor Reed went on hunger strike … in protest over being repeatedly placed in a punitive isolation ward, a practice which Reed sees as illegal, and other serious violations of his rights in the penal colony,” his attorneys, Sergei Nikitenkov and Viktoria Buklova, told Russia’s Interfax news agency.

U.S. President Joe Biden‘s administration has called on Russian authorities to release Reed, but some experts don’t expect officials in Moscow to take those calls seriously unless the United States agrees, in exchange, to release Russians it’s keeping in prison.

Reed’s family said it expects the administration to respond to the hunger strike the same way it did when Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny started a similar protest earlier this year.

In that case, the administration urged Russian officials to ensure the prisoner’s health and safety.