Brittney Griner Makes Independence Day Plea With Joe Biden, ‘Please Do All You Can To Bring Us Home’
In a letter written through her representatives on Monday, Brittney Griner made a clear request for her freedom to President Joe Biden.
“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,” Griner writes. “It hurts thinking about how I usually celebrate this day because freedom means something completely different to me this year.”
Griner’s trial began on Friday in Russia. Legal experts and US authorities have labeled the proceedings as a “show trial” which could likely end in a conviction and long sentence.
A Griner spokesperson said the complete letter would not be released, nor would the details of how it got from Griner’s holding cell outside Moscow to the White House.
Griner, who has been jailed since mid-February, has been permitted to write and receive notes from friends and family via her Russian attorneys. Most of her communication is monitored by Russian officials.
Griner was detained in February at a Moscow airport when Russian police said she had cannabis oil in her luggage and accused her of importing considerable amounts of a narcotic drug, a crime punishable by up to ten years in jail.
The two-time Olympic gold winner and star of the WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury spends the offseason in Russia.
The trial has been referred to as a clear example of Russia tactics in trying to secure a prisoner swap, likely for someone who committed a much more serious crime than the one Griner allegedly committed.
As pressure rises on President Biden to adopt a tougher stance in order to persuade Moscow to free imprisoned Griner, recent international rumor suggests a prisoner swap for convicted Russian weapons dealer Viktor Bout.
Steve Zissou and Russian media has said that Russian officials want Bout released. Griner, who has been detained in Russia since February, might be part of a prisoner swap.
Bout, who is presently serving a 25-year federal prison sentence, was convicted of conspiring to murder US civilians by carrying anti-aircraft missiles and assisting a terrorist organisation, all of which his attorney disputes.
Paul Whelan, another American citizen, is receiving a 16-year jail sentence in Russia for espionage. Whelan is a retired Marine and former security director.
White House National Security Council spokeswoman Adrienne Watson told reporters on Monday, “We believe the Russian Federation is wrongfully detaining Brittney Griner.”
Watson continued, “President Biden has been clear about the need to see all U.S. nationals who are held hostage or wrongfully detained abroad released, including Brittney Griner. The U.S. government continues to work aggressively – using every available means – to bring her home.”