Brittney Griner, in a letter sent to the White House through her officials, made an appeal to President Joe Biden, saying she feared she might never return home and asking him to “take me and the other American… not to forget prisoners”.
Griner’s agent, Lindsay Kagawa Colas, said the letter was delivered on Monday. Most of the contents of the letter to President Biden remain private, although Griner’s reps shared a few lines from the handwritten note.
“Sitting here in a Russian prison, alone with my thoughts and without the protection of my wife, family, friends, Olympic jersey or any accomplishments, I fear that I may be here forever,” Griner wrote.
“On July 4th, our family typically 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 to think how I usually celebrate this day because freedom means something very different to me this year.”
The two-time Olympic gold medalist is in the midst of a court case 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 continue on Thursday.
Less than 1% of defendants in Russian criminal cases are acquitted, and unlike US courts, acquittals can be overturned.
The White House National Security Council confirmed that the White House received Griner’s letter.
“We believe the Russian Federation is wrongly holding Brittney Griner,” NSC spokeswoman Adrienne Watson said Monday. “President Biden has made it clear that all US citizens who are being held hostage or wrongly imprisoned abroad must be released, including Brittney Griner. The U.S. government continues to work aggressively — by any means available — to bring them home.”
In the letter, Griner asked Biden to use his powers to ensure their return.
“Please do everything you can to bring us home. I voted for the first time in 2020 and I voted for you. I believe in you. I have so much good left to do with my freedom that you can help restore it,” Griner said. “I miss my wife! I miss my family! I miss my teammates! It kills me to know they are suffering so much right now. I am grateful for anything you can do at this moment to bring me home.”
Griner was able to communicate sporadically with family, friends, and WNBA players through an email account set up by her agent. The emails are printed out and bundled and delivered to Griner by her lawyer after being reviewed by Russian officials. Once the attorneys return to their office, they scan all of Griner’s replies and return them to the US for distribution.
She was supposed to call her wife on their anniversary, but it fell through an “unfortunate mistake,” according to the Biden administration.
Griner’s supporters have sponsored a prisoner swap like the one in April that brought home Navy veteran Trevor Reed in exchange for a Russian pilot convicted of drug trafficking conspiracy. The State Department in May declared her unjustly detained and placed her case under the oversight of the President’s special envoy for hostage affairs, effectively the government’s chief hostage negotiator.
Griner is not the only American unjustly being held in Russia. Paul Whelan, a former Director of Navy and Security, is serving a 16-year sentence on an espionage conviction.
Associated Press writer Darlene Superville in Washington contributed to this report.”