Russia says jailed American on hunger strike, but denies he caught TB

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Former U.S. Marine Trevor Reed, who was detained in 2019 and accused of assaulting police officers, stands inside a defendants' cage during a court hearing in Moscow, Russia July 30, 2020. REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov

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LONDON, March 31 (Reuters) - Russia said on Thursday that imprisoned ex-U.S. Marine Trevor Reed had declared a hunger strike to protest at disciplinary action taken against him, but denied he had contracted tuberculosis and said that his health was "satisfactory".

The 30-year-old Texan's parents met U.S. President Joe Biden on Wednesday, having raised fears that their son had caught tuberculosis in the jail in Russia's Mordovia region where he is serving a nine-year sentence. read more

They said their son had been exposed to an inmate with active tuberculosis in December, had not been tested or received proper medical care despite his health worsening, and had been put in solitary confinement and begun a hunger strike.

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The White House voiced concern about reports of the hunger strike on Wednesday and called on Russia to provide Reed with adequate medical care immediately.

Reed was convicted of endangering the lives of two police officers while drunk on a visit to Moscow in 2019. He denied the charges and the United States called his trial a "theater of the absurd."

In a written statement to Reuterson Thursday, Russia's Federal Penitentiary Service denied that Reed had been in contact with anyone suffering from tuberculosis and said that repeated tests for the illness had come back negative.

It described his health as satisfactory and said that medical workers were constantly monitoring him.

"T. Reed declared a hunger strike on Monday ... because he disagreed with a punishment imposed on him by the facility's disciplinary commission in view of the circumstances of an offence and the previous behaviour of the convict," he said.

It did not say what the punishment was or why exactly it was imposed.

Washington has called on Moscow to release him as well as Paul Whelan who was jailed for spying and also denied the charges against him. read more

Speaking after Biden's meeting with Reed's parents, the White House said "the President reiterated his commitment to continue to work to secure the release of Trevor, Paul Whelan, and other Americans wrongfully held in Russia and elsewhere."

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Reporting by Reuters; Editing by Kevin Liffey, Guy Faulconbridge and Nick Macfie

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