Phoenix Mercury star Brittney Griner on Monday sent a handwritten letter to US President Joe Biden asking for her release from Russia. Her agency released excerpts from the letter to the public:
“…sitting here in a Russian prison, alone with my thoughts and without the protection of my wife, family, friends, Olympic jersey or any accomplishments, I fear that I may be here forever,” Griner wrote.
“On July 4th, our family typically honors the service of those who fought for our freedom, including my father, who is a Vietnam War veteran. It hurts to think how I usually celebrate this day because freedom means something very different to me this year.”
“I realize that you are involved in so much, but please don’t forget about me and the other American prisoners. Please do everything you can to bring us home. I voted for the first time in 2020 and I voted for you. I believe in you. I still have so much good to do with my freedom that you can help restore it. 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 anything you can do at this moment to bring me home.”
Griner, 31, has been held in a Moscow jail since her arrest on February 17, 2022 after officers found cannabis vape cartridges in her luggage. She will be detained for at least six more months while her trial continues, and faces up to 10 years in a Russian prison if convicted of drug smuggling. Although she did not enter a plea on the first day of her trial – July 1 – her trial will resume on Thursday.
In another letter to her wife, Cherelle, Griner admitted that she tries to stay mentally strong during her incarceration until she returns home.
“She says, ‘I’m fine, baby. I am hardened. I’m just not me. When I get home it takes a minute for me to come back, but I’m persevering,” Cherelle told Al Sharpton’s Keepin’ It Real. “‘I won’t vomit until I get home. I won’t let them break me I know they’re trying, but I’ll do my best to just hold on until I can get home.'”
After the US declared them “unlawfully detained” by the Russian government and reportedly requested their release. However, the means by which this release could occur have not been disclosed. Russian state media once thought Griner could be released if the US releases convicted arms dealer Viktor Bout. Others believe Griner’s former Marine Paul Whelan, who was sentenced to 16 years in a Russian prison on espionage charges in 2018, could be jointly swapped for Bout.
U.S. Deputy Chief of Mission Elizabeth Rood, who attended Griner’s July 1 trial, said Griner told her to tell the American public that she was “in good spirits and upholding the faith.”
Many have recently called for Griner’s release. Las Vegas Aces forward A’ja Wilson and Phoenix Mercury head coach Vanessa Nygaard spoke passionately about their friend and teammate after the first photos of Griner were released last week, and players in the WNBA and NBA were adamant , to bring Griner safely back to the US