Brittney Griner to Biden: ‘I am Terrified I May Be Right here Perpetually.’

Brittney Griner, the WNBA star who has been detained in Russia on drug expenses since February, despatched a handwritten letter to President Biden on Monday asking him to not overlook about her.

“As I sit right here in a Russian jail, alone with my ideas and with out the safety of my spouse, household, associates, Olympic jersey or any accomplishments, I am terrified I is likely to be right here perpetually,” Griner mentioned in an excerpt from the letter shared by her representatives.

She continued: “I understand you might be coping with a lot, however please remember about me and the opposite American detainees. Please do all you possibly can to carry us residence.”

A White Home spokeswoman wouldn’t say whether or not the president had obtained the letter, however she supplied an announcement from Adrienne Watson, a spokeswoman for the Nationwide Safety Council.

“President Biden has been launched clear about the necessity to see all US nationals who’re held hostage or wrongfully detained overseas, together with Brittney Griner. The US authorities continues to work aggressively — utilizing each obtainable means — to carry her residence,” Watson mentioned.

She added that “the president’s group is in common contact with Brittney’s household.”

Griner, 31, was detained on Feb. 17 after she was accused of getting cannabis oil in her baggage at an airport close to Moscow. She was in Russia to play with UMMC Yekaterinburg, knowledgeable girls’s basketball group that she had competed for throughout a number of WNBA off-seasons. She has performed for the WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury since 2013, when the group drafted her with the No. 1 general decide, and he or she has gained two Olympic gold medals with the US girls’s nationwide basketball group.

Griner faces as much as 10 years in a penal colony if she is convicted of the drug expenses in Russia. Her trial started Friday, and authorized specialists mentioned that she was more likely to be discovered responsible. However not essentially on the deserves of the case.

“There is a bias primarily as a result of the Russian judicial system says they actually shouldn’t go to trial until the defendant goes to be convicted,” William Pomeranz, the appearing director of the Kennan Institute and an skilled on Russian regulation, informed The New York Instances just lately. “There isn’t any actual concept or expectation that the defendant might be harmless. There isn’t any presumption of innocence, actually.”

Griner has not responded to the fees. The US State Division decided in Might that she had been “wrongfully detained,” although it has not mentioned how or why it got here to that conclusion. The willpower meant that authorities officers who cope with hostages would work to free her. Greater than 40 Individuals have been mentioned to be wrongfully detained world wide earlier this yr.

In her letter to Biden, Griner referred to the Fourth of July. “It hurts desirous about how I normally have fun this present day as a result of freedom means one thing utterly totally different to me this yr,” she mentioned, including that she voted for the primary time within the 2020 presidential election — and selected Biden.

Griner’s spouse, Cherelle Griner, has publicly urged Biden to assist free her spouse. Final 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 mentioned that Griner was enduring “inhumane therapy.”

“We now urge you to make a deal to get Brittney again residence to America instantly and safely,” the letter mentioned.

In April, the USA and Russia held a prisoner swap that freed Trevor R. Reed, a former US Marine who had been held on assault expenses for greater than two years. In alternate, the USA launched Konstantin Yaroshenko, a Russian pilot who was sentenced to twenty years in jail in 2011 for trafficking cocaine.

US officers haven’t mentioned whether or not they would think about a prisoner swap to free Griner.

Longstanding tensions between the USA and Russia and the continuing conflict in Ukraine have sophisticated Griner’s scenario, however authorities officers have mentioned that securing her launch is a precedence.

Michael D. Shear contributed reporting.

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