Families of US hostages, detainees urge Biden to take action

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Families of US hostages, detainees urge Biden to take action

The families of 26 Americans currently being held hostage or wrongly detained overseas sent a letter to President Biden Monday questioning his administration’s efforts in bringing their loved ones home and urging him to prioritize their return. 

In the letter, the families wrote that while they are grateful to have been on a call in February with Secretary of State Antony Blinken, many of their situations remain unchanged. 

“That call provided hope to so many families who heard this administration promise that their loved ones’ freedom was a national priority,” the families wrote. 

“Yet as of this letter, so many of us remain in the same situation, or worse, more than 8 months later. In fact, some of us have endured this burden across multiple administrations.”

The families complained that they have been unable to meet with Biden or National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan to discuss their various captivity situations, saying it leads them to believe “that your administration is not prioritizing negotiations and other methods to secure their release.” 

Trevor Reed, a former US Marine, at a hearing in Moscow where he is being detained on July 30, 2020.
Trevor Reed, a former US Marine, at a hearing in Moscow where he is being detained on July 30, 2020.
Photo by DIMITAR DILKOFF/AFP via Getty Images

The letter, released by the James W. Foley Legacy Foundation (JWFLF) — an organization named after the American journalist James Foley who was held hostage for two years and ultimately killed by ISIS in 2014 — noted how the families felt they are “kept in the dark” whenever they do meet with other officials. 

Because their relatives are American citizens, the families wrote it is the U.S. government’s responsibility to ensure their return. 

“To do that, the U.S. can no longer continue to be bogged down in burdensome processes or policy debates that keep our loved ones from coming home and keep us uninformed of what you can and cannot do to help us.”

The signees insisted Biden must prioritize the return of their family members to show his administration’s promise isn’t “empty.” 

Paul Whelan, who was convicted in Russia on espionage, holding up a sign during his trial in December 2018.
Paul Whelan, who was convicted in Russia on espionage, holding a sign during his trial in December 2018.
Photo by KIRILL KUDRYAVTSEV/AFP via Getty Images

The families that signed the letter currently have relatives detained or held hostage in Afghanistan, China, Cuba, Egypt, Iran, Mali, Russia, Rwanda, Saudi Arabia, Syria, and Venezuela. 

Among the families that signed was Paula Reed, the mother of former US Marine Trevor Reed who was convicted to nine years in Russian prison last year. It was also signed by the family of Paul Whelan, who was convicted to 16 years in Russian prison on spying charges last year as well. Charlene Cakora, the sister of Mark Frerichs, a US government contractor from Illinois who was kidnapped by Taliban-affiliated militants in February 2020, also added her signature. 

Trevor Reed's family were among the 26 to sign the letter to Biden.
Trevor Reed’s family were among the 26 to sign the letter to Biden.
Photo by JIM WATSON/AFP via Getty Images

There are at least 66 publicly disclosed cases of Americans held hostage or wrongfully detained abroad, according to JWFLF.

Most recently, 17 American missionaries were taken hostage in Haiti during a visit to an orphanage. 

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