WASHINGTON – The Biden administration has determined that WNBA star Brittney Griner is being unjustly detained in Russia, which means the United States will work more aggressively to secure her release even as the legal case against her unfolds, she said Tuesday the State Department.
“The U.S. government will continue to make efforts to provide adequate support to Ms. Griner,” the department said.
Griner was arrested at an airport in February after Russian authorities said a search of his bag revealed vaping cartridges containing cannabis-derived oil. Since then, U.S. officials have stopped classifying the Phoenix Mercury player as being illegally detained and said they have focused on ensuring that U.S. consular affairs officials have access to jail.
Now, however, U.S. officials have transferred oversight of their case to a section of the State Department, the Office of the Presidential Special Envoy for Hostage Matters, which focuses on negotiating the release of hostages and other Americans classified as illegally detained in other countries. . A consular officer visited in March.
“Brittney has been detained for 75 days and our expectation is that the White House will do whatever it takes to bring her home,” Griner’s agent Lindsay Kagawa Colas said.
WnBA player union president Nneka Ogwumike said in a separate statement that “75 days ago our friend, teammate and sister Brittney Griner was unjustly detained in Russia.”
“It’s time for him to come home,” Ogwumike added. “Knowing that the U.S. government has now determined that BG is being unfairly detained, we hope that his efforts will be meaningful, prompt, and successful.”
The WNBA issued a statement on Tuesday night saying, “Today’s news about Brittney Griner is a positive development and a next step in getting her home. The WNBA is in constant communication with the U.S. government about Brittney’s case. , working together to make your home safe and secure. “
It was unclear what led to the change in approach to the Griner case, although the administration of President Joe Biden was under pressure from members of Congress and others to release it was a priority.
The United States last week secured the release of Navy veteran Trevor Reed as part of a prisoner exchange that also resulted in the release of a convicted Russian drug trafficker from prison in the United States.
In addition to Griner, another American considered unjustly detained in Russia is Paul Whelan, a Michigan corporate security executive who was arrested in December 2018 while visiting a friend’s wedding and later sentenced to 16 years in prison on espionage charges. , according to his family. they are false.
ESPN first reported the classification in the Griner case.
Meanwhile, the WNBA announced on Tuesday that it would honor Griner with a decal for the floor and allow Mercury to pay him without counting against the team’s cap. The sticker will bear the initials of Griner, BG, as well as his number 42.
All 12 teams will have the sticker on their home courts from the start of the season on Friday night. The Mercury open their home season tonight against the Las Vegas Aces.
Associated Press writer Doug Feinberg in New York contributed to this report.
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WNBA star Brittney Griner is now considered unjustly detained, according to US officials
Source link WNBA star Brittney Griner is now considered unjustly detained, according to US officials