Joe Biden pledges to make the release of basketball player Brittney Griner a priority

Joe Biden pledges to make the release of basketball player Brittney Griner a priority

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He says he has made it a priority. US President Joe Biden has called the wife of US women’s basketball star Brittney Griner who is being held in Russia and pledged to secure her release as soon as possible. “The president called Cherelle [Griner] to reassure her that he is working to secure Brittney’s release as soon as possible.”announced the White House, Wednesday July 6 in a press release. During that call, the president also read Cherelle Griner a draft letter he plans to send to the two-time Olympic gold medalist (2016, 2020).

Cannabis vapes and e-liquid

Brittney Griner is to be tried in Russia for drug trafficking and smuggling. The Phoenix Mercury player was arrested at Moscow airport on February 17 after the discovery in his hand luggage “vapers” and D’“a liquid with a particular smell” of cannabis oil, according to the Russian Federal Customs Service.

She came to Russia to play there during the American offseason, a common practice for women’s basketball players in the Women’s National Basketball Association, the American professional women’s basketball league, who sometimes earn a better living abroad than at home. She faces up to ten years in prison. She appeared on 1is July before a court, near Moscow, for his trial, finally adjourned to Thursday July 7.

The case is politically very sensitive, at a time when relations are at their worst between the United States and Russia, because of the latter’s invasion of Ukraine.

Letter delivered on July 4 to the White House

“Sitting here in a Russian prison, alone with my thoughts and without the protection of my wife, my family, my friends, my Olympic jersey or anything I have accomplished, I am terrified of the thought of ‘be here forever’wrote the champion in a letter symbolically deposited at the White House on July 4, the day of the Independence Day of the United States. “I know very well that you have to deal with a lot of things, but please don’t forget me and the other American detainees”wrote the basketball player there.

Brittney Griner’s teammates lamented the lack of attention, especially from the media. “The indignation is not strong enough”Brianna Turner said on the sidelines of a game against the Los Angeles Sparks. ” If it was [la star de NBA] LeBron James or [la légende du football américain] Tom Brady, that would make headlines every day”criticized Sophie Cunningham, another player.

On Tuesday, Karine Jean-Pierre, spokesperson for the American president, was questioned about this letter. She said, laconically: “The president read the letter. This subject is a priority for the President (…). He’s doing everything he can.”. Karine Jean-Pierre also added that several senior officials were in regular contact with the family of the champion.

Prisoner exchanges

“We want to end this practice, whether in Russia or any other country, of unlawfully detaining Americans or foreign nationals for political gain.”State Department spokesman Ned Price said Tuesday.

Asked about criticism from Brittney Griner’s family or teammates about the mobilization, he assured that the Biden administration does not want “do or say anything that could compromise” the chances of release. “We of course understand the desire of families to draw as much attention to their belongings as possible”assured Ned Price.

In May, Washington declared that Russia held “unfairly” the 31-year-old star. His case is now in the hands, on the American side, of the special envoy of the United States in charge of those taken hostage.

Americans and Russians accuse each other of detaining their respective nationals for political purposes. Several prisoner exchanges have taken place in the past. In April, the former US Navy Trevor Reed, sentenced to nine years in prison in Russia for violence, was exchanged for a Russian pilot, Konstantin Yaroshenko, imprisoned in the United States since 2010 for drug trafficking.

Other exchanges of this type would be the subject of talks. Among the names most mentioned are that of Paul Whelan, an American sentenced to sixteen years in prison for espionage and who claims his innocence, and the famous Russian arms trafficker Viktor Bout, arrested in Thailand in 2008 and who is serving a sentence of twenty-five years in prison in the United States.

Le Monde with AP and AFP

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