After a night of drinking, the American Trevor Reed ended up in the dock in Moscow. He was sentenced to nine years in prison. Now he has been released early and is telling about his three-year nightmare.

Trevor Reed was imprisoned when he woke up in a Moscow drunk cell after a night of partying. The next morning he was already waiting at the police station for his girlfriend to pick him up when the officers suddenly wouldn’t let him go. Instead, agents from one of the domestic intelligence agencies showed up and began questioning him. It was about his time in the US military. But why and how was not clear to him. He was later accused of assaulting police officers. After that, Reed’s three-year nightmare began.

Almost 1000 days in Russian detention

The Texan was almost 30 years old when he was housed in various Russian prison camps for 985 days after a bizarre trial. He lost almost 19 kilos in that time, he told the ABC broadcaster in his first major interview after his release at the end of April. In it, he tells of closet-sized isolation cells in which he had to spend 23 hours a day, cellmates with serious mental health problems, and labor camps that seemed “straight out of the Middle Ages.”

Although Trevor was convinced that the verdict against him was already known before the trial, he fought for his innocence. But the authorities apparently tried to break his resistance. So he was sent to a psychiatric facility “probably to intimidate me.” It was terrible there: “Blood on the walls and the toilet was a hole in the floor that was littered with human feces.”

Three years ago in the summer, Trevor Reed was arrested. At that time he had already served in the US Marines, was studying “International Security” and was visiting his Russian girlfriend. After being interrogated by the secret service people, he was charged with “violence against police officers”. The verdict: nine years in prison. The judge said at the time that the American had caused “mental and physical harm” by attacking the police officers, as the AFP news agency reported at the time. When the war in Ukraine began, Reed thought it was the end of his hopes of an early release. But he should be wrong.

Two weeks of solitary confinement on cold ground

He spent more than his year on remand in a prison he described as “extremely dirty” and rat-infested. Then it was off to a former Gulag, notorious Soviet labor camps from World War II. There, he says, he refused both to work and to abide by the rules. As punishment, he ended up in solitary confinement for up to two weeks, where he had to sleep on the cold floor. On the other hand, he earned the respect of his fellow inmates.

Then suddenly the turning point. Probably also thanks to his parents and his girlfriend, who didn’t give up fighting for his release. “They achieved all this. They gave their lives to help me.”

In April 2022, he was put on a plane and flown towards the Black Sea. The machine was so old that Trevor feared falling during the flight. Already on the trip further to the USA “I felt that I had developed a fear of flying”. During the stopover in Turkey, he was exchanged for a Russian pilot. “I remember looking at each other. We probably both thought the same thing: ‘So this is what this guy looks like.'”

Trevor Reed coughed up blood

Back in the United States, Reed first had to go through the medical check-up. “I coughed up blood and feared I had tuberculosis.” “He looked awful,” his mother, Paula Reed, also told ABC. “He was really skinny with black wrestlers under his eyes. He didn’t look like the Trevor who went to Russia. It was awful to see him like that.”

In his home country he tries to find his way back into his life. “I’m with my family a lot and I’m getting used to being free very slowly.” At the same time, however, he is concerned with the fate of his compatriot Paul Whelan. He was arrested in Moscow in 2018 and sentenced to 16 years on allegedly fabricated espionage charges. He is also currently in the ex-Gulag. “I feel guilty that I’m free and Paul isn’t,” says Trevor Reed. “As soon as I’m able to, I’ll do everything I can to get him out of there.”

Sources: ABC, AFP