Brittney Griner has sent an appeal to President Joe Biden asking him to step up efforts for her release, saying she fears she could be jailed in Russia forever.
“I realize you are dealing with so much, but please don’t forget about me and the other American Detainees,” the lesbian WNBA star wrote in the letter delivered to the White House Monday; excerpts were released by her management team. “Please do all 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 good to do with my freedom that you can help restore.”
Griner, center for the Phoenix Mercury, has been detained in Russia since February. She was taken into custody at an airport near Moscow due to accusations that she had hashish oil, which is illegal in Russia, in vape cartridges in her luggage. She was in Russia to play for a team there, something many WNBA athletes do during their off-season. Her trial began Friday.
“On the 4th of July, our family normally honors the service of those men who fought for our freedom, including my father who is a Vietnam War Veteran,” the letter said. “It hurts thinking about how I usually celebrate this day because freedom means something completely different to me this year.”
“I miss my wife! I miss my family! I miss my teammates!” Griner continued. “It kills me to know they are suffering so much right now. I am grateful for whatever you can do at this moment to get me home.”
She added, “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 might be here forever.”
Griner’s trial is set to resume Thursday. “Legal experts and U.S. officials have described the proceeding as a ‘show trial’ that is certain to end in a conviction and lengthy sentence,” ESPN reports. There is a possibility of a prisoner swap for Griner, but Russian officials would likely require her to plead guilty for this to happen. She has not entered a plea yet.
Her management team declined to say how her letter, which was handwritten, got to the White House, or to release the full letter, according to ESPN. “Griner has been able to send and receive notes to friends and family through her Russian attorneys, although all the messages have been monitored by Russian officials,” the outlet notes.
The Mercury will host a “Bring BG Home” rally Wednesday at its arena, the Footprint Center. Griner’s wife, Cherelle Griner, will speak at the event, which will begin at 5 p.m., Arizona Sports reports.
Congressman Greg Stanton of Arizona, who will cohost the rally, sponsored a resolution calling for Brittney Griner’s immediate release, and it was passed by the U.S. House last week. The State Department considers Griner “wrongfully detained.”
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