Former hostage Mark Frerichs — raised in Lombard — at U.S. military hospital in Germany
Charlene Cakora, Frerichs’ sister, on Tuesday threw a spotlight on the plight of at least 64 other U.S. citizens who are detained or are hostages.
WASHINGTON — Mark Frerichs was at a U.S. military hospital in Germany on Tuesday, a day after the Lombard man, held hostage by Taliban forces in Afghanistan for 2.5 years, was swapped for an Afghan drug lord serving a life sentence in a U.S. prison.
Frerichs, a source told the Chicago Sun-Times, was at the Landstuhl U.S. Military Hospital, where the Defense Department runs a program designed to help captives restart their lives, beginning with a medical assessment.
“He’s going through a process of reintegrating and getting his freedom back,” the source said, who added Frerichs, 60, on Monday had his first hot shower in a very long time.
Frerichs, kidnapped in Kabul on Jan. 31, 2020, was released because of relentless efforts by his sister, Charlene Cakora, a Lombard resident, pushing for her brother’s freedom, starting during the Trump administration.
When President Joe Biden took office he made securing the release of Frerichs a priority, and in a potentially risky move months before the November mid-term elections granted clemency to Bashir Noorzai, with the drug dealer — who was a Taliban financier — having been in U.S. federal custody for 17 years. Noorzai was the key to the deal.
After the swap at the Kabul airport, Frerichs was flown on a U.S. government plane to the Al Udeid Air Base, southwest of Doha, Qatar, and then on to Germany.
Cakora, in a Tuesday statement, said, “We have not spoken with Mark yet, but anticipate that will happen soon” and he “will be coming home as soon as he is ready. From what we have heard, Mark is doing well and in relatively good health. Right now, our focus is on getting him the support he needs and helping him adjust back into freedom.”
Cakora also threw a spotlight on the plight of at least 64 other U.S. citizens who are detained or are hostages. Last week, Biden met with family members of basketball star Brittney Griner and Paul Whelan, U.S. citizens being held in Russia.
Cakora said, “We are reminded that there are other Americans in custody overseas. Some are hostages and others are wrongful detainees, but they all have in common that they are stuck because they are Americans. With Mark’s release, President Biden showed moral courage — he did what was right when it mattered. We pray that other Americans being held in Russia, Venezuela, Iran, Syria, and elsewhere will get the same opportunity to come home safely to their families.”
The James W. Foley Foundation tracks U.S. hostages and wrongful detainees and advocates for their freedom. It is named for Foley, a U.S. journalist taken hostage by ISIS in Syria in 2012 and killed in 2014.
Diane Foley, the president and founder of the foundation, said in a statement, “The compromises and decisions involved in these kinds of operations are often complex, but the only real measure of our moral resolve is whether we are actually bringing Americans home.
“Let us continue to prioritize the return of the other 64 Americans being held hostage or unjustly detained overseas today. As we celebrate Mark’s return, we cannot forget our commitment to them and their families. The Foley Foundation urges the Biden Administration and Congress to continue to do everything in their power to bring these other Americans home safely and swiftly, to support their families during their ordeals, and to ensure accountability for anyone who holds our people.”