As Russia reportedly continues to push for a prisoner swap that includes a notorious arms dealer, WNBA star Brittney Griner has pleaded for her release in a letter to President Joe Biden.
“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,” Griner wrote. “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 has been held in Russia since her February arrest at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport after cannabis oil was allegedly found in her luggage. If convicted, she faces up to 10 years in prison.
Reportedly, fewer than 1% of defendants in criminal cases are acquitted in Russia. Even if Griner wins acquittal, the Russian government has the right to overturn any decision and still remand her to prison.
Like many other WNBA players, Griner plays EuroLeague basketball during the offseason to augment her income. Reports suggest that Griner and others earn five times more in Russia than they do in the WNBA.
Multiple reports suggests that Russian President Vladimir Putin would free Griner if the U.S. frees Victor Bout, an arms dealer who sells weapons to entities seeking to kill Americans.
Bout is serving a 25-year federal prison sentence.
“On the 4th of July, our family normally honors the service of those who fought for our freedom, including my father who is a Vietnam War veteran,” Griner wrote to Biden. “It hurts thinking about how I usually celebrate this day because freedom means something completely different to me this year.
“Please do all you can to bring us home,” she wrote. “I voted for the first time in 2020 and I voted for you. I believe in you.”