Black women sign letter urging US to bring Brittney Griner home

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Nearly 1,200 prominent black women have signed a letter to President Biden and Vice President Harris urging the administration to secure the release of Brittney Griner from a Russian prison, an escalation of a pressure campaign by supporters of the WNBA star who comes as his trial unfolds in a court outside Moscow. .

The letter, which was delivered to the White House on Tuesday afternoon, was signed by a group of black women leaders in sports, entertainment, labor, business, politics and faith. He claimed that Griner was “enduring inhumane conditions” while imprisoned and said: “It is imperative, President Biden, that you address this current human rights crisis and reach a deal to bring Brittney home. her quickly and safely.”

The letter came a day after a letter to Biden from the Phoenix Mercury Center, handwritten from his cell, was delivered to the White House on Independence Day. In Griner’s letter, excerpts of which were released by her agents, she wrote, “I’m terrified to be here forever” and asked Biden to do “everything you can do about it.” this time to take me home.

Asked about Griner’s letter to Biden, National Security Council spokeswoman Adrienne Watson told The Washington Post: “[Biden’s] The team is in regular contact with Brittney’s family and we will continue to work to support her family. … The US government continues to work aggressively — using every means available — to bring her home.

‘Terrified’ Brittney Griner writes to Biden to push for his freedom

Griner, 31, was arrested in February at Sheremetyevo International Airport near Moscow when customs officials allegedly discovered vape cartridges containing hash oil in her luggage. At the time, she was returning home to join UMMC Yekaterinburg, the Russian team she plays for during the WNBA offseason. In early May, the State Department declared Griner’s case a “wrongful detention”, an official classification that elevated him to the rank of the US President’s special envoy for hostage cases.

His trial began Friday and is expected to continue Thursday; Griner has not yet pleaded guilty. She is expected to be found guilty – an estimated 99% of Russian criminal trials end in guilty verdicts – and could face up to 10 years in prison.

After Friday’s hearing, US Chargé Elizabeth Rood, who was in attendance, said in a statement that US officials were working “at the highest level” to bring Griner home. After being able to speak with Griner in the courtroom, Rood said, “She is doing as well as expected under these difficult circumstances.”

Among the women who signed the letter delivered on Tuesday were Bernice King, CEO of the King Center and daughter of Martin Luther King Jr.; actress Anika Noni Rose; singer Ledisi; television hosts Shaun Robinson and Sunny Hostin; former Democratic National Committee interim chairwoman Donna Brazile; former CEO of Black Entertainment Television Debra L. Lee; activist and former NAACP president Hazel Dukes; Dawn Staley, University of South Carolina women’s basketball coach and three-time Olympic gold medalist; and numerous WNBA players, coaches and executives.

“The letter is support – support for a group of black women trying to save another black woman. It’s as simple as that,” Staley said in a phone interview Tuesday. “…I think of Brittney all day, every day. I try to put myself in his shoes, and I want someone to fight for me – people who don’t shut up.

With little hope of an acquittal, Griner supporters have in recent weeks sought to ratchet up public pressure on the Biden administration to secure his release through diplomatic channels, an effort complicated by heightened tensions between the United States and Russia since the latter’s invasion of Ukraine.

But in Tuesday’s letter, Griner supporters demanded more urgency: “More than prioritizing his immediate return in words,” he said, “you must do it in deed and make a deal to bring back Brittney home.”

“Enough is enough. I don’t want to count the days anymore,” said Terri Jackson, executive director of the WNBA players union and one of the organizers of the letter, referring to the fact that Tuesday marked the 138th day. Griner’s jail term. Biden and Harris, she added, were “elected by voters who look a lot like my members. This letter will be powerful. This letter will get them to pay attention.”

Opinion: Brittney Griner is a hostage, plain and simple

The letter, organized by the collective network #WinWithBlackWomen, also urged Biden and/or Harris to meet Griner’s wife, Cherelle, and pointed out that an arranged phone call between the Griners last month fell through because he There was no one at the U.S. Embassy in Moscow to correct the call — a failure the State Department called “a logistical error.”

“I won’t be quiet anymore,” Cherelle Griner said Tuesday on “CBS Mornings.” “I will find that balance between harm and help by pushing our government to do whatever is possible. [Administration officials] don’t move. They do nothing. My wife is in trouble and we have to help her.

Speculation in Russian state media has suggested a prisoner swap involving Griner and Viktor Bout, a Russian arms dealer serving a 25-year sentence for conspiracy to kill US citizens and aiding a terrorist organization. But US officials have not commented on the likelihood of such a swap. In April, US officials secured the release of former Marine Trevor Reed from Russia through a prisoner exchange.

“We must do whatever it takes to bring Brittney back to American soil,” Staley said. “Anything.”

Also on Tuesday, the Reverend Al Sharpton, founder and chairman of the National Action Network, called on Biden and Secretary of State Antony Blinken to arrange a visit by him and other religious leaders to Griner in Russia.

“After speaking with his wife last week, I am deeply concerned for the physical, mental and spiritual well-being of Brittney Griner,” Sharpton said in a statement. “Today I urge [the administration] to bring myself and other religious leaders to Russia immediately so that we can pray for Brittney in prison. She deserves to see that the United States does something for her, so that she can find the strength during this show trial. … Four months is too long for this to have lasted, and I hope the President will act on her pleas to come home.

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