Brittney Griner called on President Joe Biden in a letter sent to the White House through his representatives, saying she feared he would never come home and asking him not to “forget about me and the other American detainees.”
Griner’s agent, Lindsay Kagawa Colas, said the letter was delivered Monday. Most of the content of the letter to President Biden remains private, although Griner’s representatives did share a few lines of the handwritten note.
″…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 achievement, I am terrified that I will be here forever,” Griner wrote.
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“On the 4th of July, our family normally honors the service of those who fought for our freedom, including my father, who is a veteran of the Vietnam War,” the Phoenix Mercury Center added. “It pains me 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 that began last week after she was arrested on February 17 on charges of possessing cannabis oil while returning to play for her Russian team. The trial will resume on Thursday.
Fewer than 1 percent of defendants in Russian criminal cases are acquitted, and unlike in American courts, acquittals can be overturned.
Griner’s wife, Cherelle, said Tuesday morning that she has not had any direct communication with President Biden since the letter was delivered to the White House.
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“I haven’t heard from him yet and it’s honestly very discouraging,” Cherelle Griner said on CBS mornings.
The White House National Security Council confirmed that the White House received Griner’s letter.
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“We believe the Russian Federation is unfairly detaining Brittney Griner,” NSC spokeswoman Adrienne Watson said Monday. “President Biden has been clear about the need to see free all American citizens who are held hostage or wrongfully detained abroad, including Brittney Griner. The US government continues to work aggressively, using every means available, to bring her home.”
Cherelle Griner said Brittney contacting Biden directly is an indication of how scared her wife is about what’s next.
“BG is probably the strongest person I know. So she doesn’t say words like that lightly,” Cherelle said. “That means she’s really terrified that she’ll never see us again. And you know I share those same feelings. … I’m sure she was like, ‘I’m going to write you now because… my family has tried and to no avail. So I’ll do it myself.’”
Griner pleaded with Biden in the letter to use his powers to secure his return.
“Please do everything you can to get us home. I voted for the first time in 2020 and I voted for you. I believe in you. I still have a lot to do with my freedom that you can help restore,” Griner said. “I miss my wife! I miss my family! I miss my colleagues! It kills me to know that they are suffering so much right now. I am grateful for anything you can do at this time to get me home.”
Griner has been able to have sporadic communications with family, friends and WNBA players through an email account created by her agent. The emails are printed and handed over to Griner by her lawyer in bunches after Russian officials review them. Once the attorneys return to her office, they will scan Griner’s responses and send them to the US for mailing.
He was supposed to have a phone call with his wife on their anniversary but failed due to an “unfortunate mistake,” Biden administration officials said.
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Griner’s supporters have encouraged a prisoner swap like the one in April that brought home Navy veteran Trevor Reed in exchange for a Russian pilot convicted of drug conspiracy. In May, the State Department designated her as wrongfully detained, moving her case to the supervision of its special presidential envoy for hostage affairs, effectively the government’s top hostage negotiator.
Griner is not the only American wrongfully detained in Russia. Paul Whelan, former Navy and security director, is serving a 16-year sentence for an espionage conviction.
Associated Press writer Darlene Superville in Washington contributed to this report.
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