(Reuters) – American WNBA basketball star Brittney Griner has made a direct appeal to President Joe Biden to defend her in a moving letter sent to the White House on Monday as she remains detained in Russia for drug traffic.
Griner, who was detained at a Moscow airport on February 17 when a search of her luggage allegedly revealed several vaping canisters of cannabis oil, was tried on Friday and could face up to 10 years in a Russian prison.
The case takes place in a context of strong tension between Moscow and Washington around the conflict in Ukraine. US officials say Griner was wrongfully detained.
“As I sit here in a Russian prison, alone with my thoughts and without the protection of my wife, my family, my friends, my Olympic jersey or any achievement, I am terrified of be here forever,” she wrote in a letter, excerpts of which were shared by her reps.
“On July 4, our family normally honors the service of those who fought for our freedom, including my father who is a Vietnam War veteran.
“It hurts to think about how I usually celebrate this day because freedom means something completely different to me this year.”
Griner, who competes in the United States’ Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) but has also played regularly in Russia, was formally told at the first hearing that she was charged with intentionally importing narcotics into Russia.
The judge scheduled the next hearing for July 7.
“I realize you have so much to do, but please don’t forget me and the other American inmates. Please do whatever you can to bring us home. “, added Griner.
“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.
“I miss my wife! I miss my family! I miss my teammates! It kills me to know that they are hurting so much right now. I’m grateful for whatever you can do right now to bring me home. “
(Reporting by Anita Kobylinska in Gdansk; Editing by Ken Ferris)
Copyright 2022 Thomson Reuters.