Griner sends letter to President Biden asking for his help
« On July 4, our family normally honors the service of those who fought for our freedom, including my father who is a Vietnam War veteran, » the Phoenix Mercury Center added. « It hurts to think about how I usually celebrate this day because freedom means something completely different to me this year. »
The two-time Olympic gold medalist is in the midst of a trial in Russia which began last week after she was arrested on February 17 for possession of cannabis oil while returning to play for her Russian team. The trial will resume on Thursday.
Less than 1% of defendants in Russian criminal cases are acquitted and, unlike US courts, acquittals can be overturned.
The White House National Security Council confirmed that the White House had received Griner’s letter.
« We believe the Russian Federation is wrongfully detaining Brittney Griner, » NSC spokeswoman Adrienne Watson said Monday. “President Biden has been clear on the need to see all U.S. nationals held hostage or wrongfully detained overseas released, including Brittney Griner. The US government continues to work aggressively — using every means available — to bring her home. »
Griner pleaded with Biden in the letter to use his powers to secure his return.
« Please do everything you can to bring us home. I voted for the first time in 2020 and I voted for you. I believe in you. I still have so much to do with my freedom that you can help restore, » Griner said. « I miss my wife! I miss my family! I miss my teammates! It kills me to know they’re in so much pain right now. I follow you. » grateful for anything you can do right now to bring me home.
Griner was able to have sporadic communications with family, friends and WNBA players through an email account set up by his agent. The emails are printed and delivered in packets to Griner by his lawyer after being reviewed by Russian officials. Once the lawyers return to their offices, they will scan all of Griner’s responses and send them back to the United States to send.
She was supposed to have a phone call with his wife on their anniversary, but it fell through due to an « unfortunate mistake » by Biden administration officials.
Griner supporters have encouraged a prisoner exchange like the one in April that brought home Navy veteran Trevor Reed in exchange for a Russian pilot convicted of a drug trafficking conspiracy. In May, the State Department designated her as wrongfully detained, placing her case under the supervision of its presidential special envoy for hostage affairs, effectively the government’s chief hostage negotiator.
Griner is not the only American wrongfully detained in Russia. Paul Whelan, former Director of Navy and Security, is serving a 16-year sentence for espionage.