Detained basketball star Brittney Griner asks Biden ‘not to forget about me’
In letter passed to White House, athlete says she fears she may be stuck in Russian prison for ever
The imprisoned basketball star Brittney Griner has made an appeal to Joe Biden in a letter passed to the White House through her representatives, saying she fears she may never return home and asking that he not “forget about me and the other American detainees”.
Griner’s agent Lindsay Kagawa Colas said the letter was delivered on Monday. Most of the letter’s contents remain private, though Griner’s representatives shared a few lines from 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 accomplishments, I’m terrified I might be here forever,” Griner wrote.
“On the 4th of July, 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 thinking 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 17 February on charges of possessing cannabis oil while returning to play for her Russian team. The trial will resume on Thursday.
Fewer than 1% of defendants in Russian criminal cases are acquitted, and unlike in US courts, acquittals can be overturned.
Griner pleaded with Biden in the letter to use his powers to ensure her return.
“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 said.
Griner has been able to have sporadic communications with family, friends and WNBA players through an email account her agent set up. The emails are printed out and delivered in bunches to Griner by her lawyer after they are vetted by Russian officials.
Griner’s supporters have encouraged a prisoner swap like the one in April that brought home the marine veteran Trevor Reed in exchange for a Russian pilot convicted of drug trafficking conspiracy. The state department in May designated her as wrongfully detained, moving her case under the supervision of its special presidential envoy for hostage affairs, in effect the government’s chief hostage negotiator.
Griner isn’t the only American being wrongfully detained in Russia. Paul Whelan, a former marine and security director, is serving a 16-year sentence on an espionage conviction.