Lawmakers Call For A “National Hostage Day”

December 13, 2022

Bipartisan lawmakers in both chambers of Congress were set to introduce legislation Tuesday to establish March 9 as “National Hostage and Wrongful Detainee Day,” just days after the release of WNBA star Brittney Griner from imprisonment in Russia.

The legislation’s sponsors include Senators Chris Coons (D-DE) and Marco Rubio (R-FL), and Representatives Haley Stevens (D-MI) and French Hill (R-AR). 

It calls for increased attention to Americans detained abroad without just cause, and for an added urgency to push for their release. It also includes a “Hostage and Detainee” flag similar to the POW-MIA flag that was adopted in 1972 to draw attention to Americans missing or held prisoner in Southeast Asia amid the Vietnam War. 

March 9, 2020 was the day that American Robert Levinson, who disappeared in Iran in 2007, was declared dead in absentia. 

President Biden on Thursday announced a prisoner swap for Griner, a two-time Olympic gold medalist who was serving a nine-year sentence after being convicted of possessing less than a gram of cannabis oil, in exchange for convicted Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout.

The Administration had been hoping to negotiate a two-for-one for Bout, and secure the release of American Paul Whelan who’s serving a 16-year sentence in a penal colony as well, but Moscow refused to make that deal. 

The federal government does not provide official figures on the exact number of Americans being detained in other countries. However, the James W. Foley Legacy Foundation, named after an American journalist abducted and killed in Syria, says more than 60 U.S. citizens are being wrongfully detained in roughly 18 countries.

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