Brittney Griner, the W.N.B.A. star who has been detained in Russia on drug charges since February, sent a handwritten letter to President Biden on Monday asking him to not ignore her.
“As I sit here in a Russian prison, alone with my thoughts and without the protection of my wife, family, friends, Olympic jersey or any accomplishments, I’m terrified I could be here eternally,” Griner said in an excerpt from the letter shared by her representatives.
She continued: “I realize you’re coping with a lot, but please don’t ignore me and the opposite American detainees. Please do all you’ll be able to to bring us home.”
A White House spokeswoman wouldn’t say whether the president had received the letter, but she provided an announcement from Adrienne Watson, a spokeswoman for the National Security Council.
“President Biden has been clear in regards to the have to see all U.S. nationals who’re held hostage or wrongfully detained abroad released, including Brittney Griner. The U.S. government continues to work aggressively — using every available means — to bring her home,” Watson said.
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She added that “the president’s team is in regular contact with Brittney’s family.”
Griner, 31, was detained on Feb. 17 after she was accused of getting hashish oil in her luggage at an airport near Moscow. She was in Russia to play with UMMC Yekaterinburg, knowledgeable women’s basketball team that she had competed for during several W.N.B.A. off-seasons. She has played for the W.N.B.A.’s Phoenix Mercury since 2013, when the team drafted her with the No. 1 overall pick, and he or she has won two Olympic gold medals with the U.S. women’s national basketball team.
Griner faces as much as 10 years in a penal colony if she is convicted of the drug charges in Russia. Her trial began Friday, and legal experts said that she was prone to be found guilty. But not necessarily on the merits of the case.
“There’s a bias mainly since the Russian judicial system says they really mustn’t go to trial unless the defendant goes to be convicted,” William Pomeranz, the acting director of the Kennan Institute and an authority on Russian law, told The Recent York Times recently. “There’s no real idea or expectation that the defendant could possibly be innocent. There’s no presumption of innocence, really.”
Griner has not responded to the costs. The U.S. State Department determined in May that she had been “wrongfully detained,” though it has not said how or why it got here to that conclusion. The determination meant that government officials who take care of hostages would work to free her. Greater than 40 Americans were said to be wrongfully detained all over the world earlier this yr.
In her letter to Biden, Griner referred to the Fourth of July. “It hurts fascinated with how I normally have a good time this present day because freedom means something completely different to me this yr,” she said, adding that she voted for the primary time within the 2020 presidential election — and selected Biden.
Griner’s wife, Cherelle Griner, has publicly urged Biden to assist free her wife. Last month, Lindsay Kagawa Colas, Griner’s agent, coordinated a letter to Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris from dozens of ladies’s and civil rights organizations. The letter said that Griner was enduring “inhumane treatment.”
“We now urge you to make a deal to get Brittney back home to America immediately and safely,” the letter said.
In April, the USA and Russia held a prisoner swap that freed Trevor R. Reed, a former U.S. Marine who had been held on assault charges for greater than two years. In exchange, the USA released Konstantin Yaroshenko, a Russian pilot who was sentenced to twenty years in prison in 2011 for trafficking cocaine.
U.S. officials haven’t said whether or not they would consider a prisoner swap to free Griner.
Longstanding tensions between the USA and Russia and the continuing war in Ukraine have complicated Griner’s situation, but government officials have said that securing her release is a priority.
Michael D. Shear contributed reporting.