Griner issues direct plea to Biden in Russian drugs case
Detained women's basketball star Brittney Griner has told US President Joe Biden that she fears she will be behind bars in Russia indefinitely while pleading with him not to forget her and fellow American detainees.
Griner was arrested at an airport near Moscow on February 17 after vape cartridges containing cannabis oil were found in her luggage.
Griner could receive up to 10 years in prison and formally went on trial in Khimki City Court just outside Moscow on Friday to face drug smuggling charges.
In her letter to Biden, which was delivered to the White House on Monday, Griner demanded: "Please do all you can to bring us home."
She also revealed that she voted for the first time in 2020, backing Biden in his battle with Donald Trump.
"I believe in you. I still have so much good to do with my freedom that you can help restore. 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 whatever you can do at this moment to get me home," Griner added.
"(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," she also confessed in the document, from which several excerpts were made public to the American media.
Furthermore, Griner also mentioned her Vietnam War veteran father and noted that her family usually honors servicemen on the 4th of July.
"It hurts thinking about how I usually celebrate this day because freedom means something completely different to me this year," she said.
On the same day the correspondence was received, the White House reiterated its claims that Russia is "wrongfully detaining" the 31-year-old.
"The US government continues to work aggressively – using every available means – to bring her home," read a statement from National Security Council spokesperson Adrienne Watson, who also said that Biden's team are in regular contact with Griner's family.
Griner's wife Cherelle has insisted that she wants the US authorities to do more to secure her partner's release, expressing doubt over their efforts thus far.
Griner's trial has been adjourned until July 7, with the Kremlin reiterating its stance on her situation.
In remarks relayed by RIA, Russian presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov refuted claims that Griner's detention is politically motivated.
"I can’t comment on the actions of the Russian court, I don’t have the right to do so," Peskov said.
"We never do that. I can only operate with facts. The facts say that this eminent athlete was detained with illegal drugs that contained narcotic substances.
"Russian legislation has such (laws) that provide for punishments for such crimes, but, again, this is just a statement.
"That’s what she was detained with and what is in our legislation.”
Griner is a two-time Olympic champion and is an eight-time WNBA All-Star in her homeland. She had been traveling to Russia to play for UMMC Ekaterinburg during the WNBA offseason, something she has done for the past several years.
Lawyers for Griner have said that the basketball star has no complaints about her detention conditions as her trial continues.