Biden tells Brittney Griner’s wife he’s working to get the WNBA star out of Russia

President Joe Biden spoke to the wife of incarcerated WNBA player Brittney Griner on Wednesday, who is on trial in Russia, and assured her that he is working to get Griner released as soon as possible, the White House said.

Biden’s conversation with Griner’s wife, Cherelle Griner, followed Brittney Griner’s personal appeal to the US president in a handwritten letter from the basketball player that the White House received Monday. In the letter, Griner acknowledged her fear that she would be held in Russia forever and asked Biden “not to forget me and the other American detainees”.

Griner has been jailed for four months and is currently on trial in Russia, accused of possessing cannabis oil vape cartridges.

The appeal was made as Griner’s family has become more aggressive in pressuring the Biden administration by speaking out about her case, including through Brittney Griner’s letter to the president and several television interviews by Cherelle Griner. , who said she didn’t think the government was doing enough to bring her wife home.

“The president called Cherelle to reassure her that he is working to secure the release of Brittney as soon as possible, as well as the release of Paul Whelan and other US citizens who are wrongfully held or held hostage in Russia and around the world. said White. House reports this in a statement. He also read to her a draft of the letter the president is sending to Brittney Griner today.

Biden offered his support to the family and pledged to ensure they receive “every possible assistance” as the government moves to win the release of Brittney Griner, the White House said.

WATCH l Griner mid-trial charged with possession of cannabis oil

American basketball player Brittney Griner appears in Russian court

American basketball star Brittney Griner appeared in Russian court on Friday to be charged with possession of cannabis. If convicted, she could face up to 10 years behind bars. US embassy deputy mission chief backed Griner in court, saying the Russian Federation wrongly detained the WNBA player.

Griner, 31, 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.

Less than one percent of suspects in Russian criminal cases are acquitted, and unlike US courts, acquittals can be reversed.

The athlete’s situation ‘personal’ for Biden

Cherelle Griner told CBS Mornings in an interview Tuesday, it was “disheartening” to her that she had not yet heard from Biden during Brittney Griner’s detention.

A Cherelle Griner representative did not immediately respond to a text message from The Associated Press. Cherelle Griner was set to speak in public Wednesday night at a rally in Phoenix hosted by Brittney Griner’s WNBA team.

White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters on Wednesday that Biden “has been clear about the need to release any American wrongfully held or held hostage abroad, including Brittney Griner.”

“This is the president’s top priority,” she said. Jean-Pierre added that Biden receives daily updates on the status of efforts to free Brittney Griner and other Americans whom the US government believes are being wrongfully detained in Russia and elsewhere.

Representatives for Brittney Griner shared excerpts from her letter to the president on Monday.

In one of them, she wrote: “Sitting here in a Russian prison, alone with my thoughts and without the protection of my wife, family, friends, Olympic jersey or any other achievements, I am terrified that I will be here forever.”

Talking about prisoner swaps

The letter was delivered to the White House on July 4, which Brittney Griner said was a special day for her family.

“On July 4, our family normally honors the service of those who fought for our freedom, including my father who is a Vietnam War veteran,” the center said for the Phoenix Mercury. “It hurts to think about how I usually celebrate this day, because freedom means something completely different to me this year.”

Griner supporters have encouraged a prisoner swap, such as the one in April, in which Navy veteran Trevor Reed was brought home in exchange for a Russian pilot convicted of drug trafficking conspiracy.

Russian news media have repeatedly speculated that she could be traded for Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout, who is serving a 25-year prison sentence on charges of conspiracy to murder American civilians and aid a terrorist organization.

Russia has been campaigning for Bout’s release for years. But the major discrepancy between Griner’s case — regarding alleged possession of vape cartridges containing cannabis oil — and Bout’s global deals in deadly weapons could make such a trade unpalatable to the US.

Others have suggested she could be trafficked along with Whelan, a former Marine and Security Director serving a 16-year prison sentence over an espionage conviction that the US has repeatedly described as deliberate.

Leave a Comment