Topline

WNBA star Brittney Griner sent President Joe Biden a handwritten letter asking him to “do all you can” to bring her and other U.S. detainees home from Russia, Griner’s agents said Monday, three days after her widely criticized drug possession trial began in a Russian court.

Key Facts

The Phoenix Mercury player told Biden she’s “terrified I might be here forever,” according to brief excerpts from the letter shared by agent Lindsay Kagawa Colas, who said the message was delivered to the White House on Monday.

Griner referenced the Fourth of July, writing she “normally honors the service of those who fought for our freedom” but it “hurts thinking about how I usually celebrate this day because freedom means something completely different to me this year.”

Forbes has reached out to the White House for comment.

Crucial Quote

“I realize you are dealing with so much, but please don’t forget about me and the other American Detainees,” Griner wrote. “Please do all you can to bring us home.”

Key Background

Griner–a nine-year WNBA veteran–was detained shortly after landing at the Moscow airport in February and charged with drug possession, after Russian officials claimed vape cartridges containing hashish oil were discovered in her luggage. Her detention has been extended repeatedly since then, and a trial at a court near Moscow began Friday. Griner faces a possible sentence of up to 10 years in prison if she’s convicted–and acquittals in Russian criminal court are extremely rare. The State Department has called Griner “wrongfully detained” and says it will seek to secure her release, but her trial is taking place as U.S.-Russia relations sink to their lowest point in decades due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Tangent

It’s unclear which other U.S. detainees Griner urged Biden to help, but she isn’t the only high-profile American trapped in Russia. Former Marine Paul Whelan has been detained in Russia since late 2018 and was convicted on espionage charges in 2020.

Further Reading

Brittney Griner’s Trial Begins In Moscow Court–Here’s What To Watch For (Forbes)

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