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Brittney Griner makes direct appeal to Joe Biden: ‘Don’t forget about me’

(BSR Agency/Getty Images)

WNBA star Brittney Griner, who has been detained in Russia since February, wrote a letter to President Joe Biden advocating for her freedom.

“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,” she wrote in an excerpt released Monday by her representatives.

The release of the letter, which is described as handwritten, comes as Griner’s trial gets underway in a Russian court.

She was arrested at a Moscow-area airport in February for the alleged possession of vape cartridges with hashish oil in them, and she faces up to 10 years in a Russian prison on charges of the “large-scale transportation of drugs.” In May, the U.S. State Department classified Griner as “wrongfully detained.”

Experts have said that due to the nature of Russian trials — more than 99 percent end in conviction — Griner’s best bet may be to plead guilty. From there, the U.S. State Department could negotiate a prisoner swap for her release.

While Griner has yet to enter a plea, part of any deal to send her home would likely require an admission of guilt.

“I realize you are dealing with so much, but please don’t forget about me and the other detainees,” Griner’s letter read. “Please do all you can to bring us home.”

Only excerpts of the letter were released on Monday, with her representatives saying they would not release the full letter. Details on how it got from her cell to the White House were also not disclosed, although the White House National Security Council confirmed that it had received her letter.

“We believe the Russian Federation is wrongfully detaining Brittney Griner,” NSC spokeswoman Adrienne Watson said Monday. “President Biden has been clear about the need to see all U.S. nationals who are held hostage or wrongfully detained abroad released, including Brittney Griner. The U.S. government continues to work aggressively — using every available means — to bring her home.”

Griner has been able to send and receive letters from friends and family, although all mail has been monitored by Russian officials.

“On the 4th of July, our family normally honors the service of those men who fought for our freedom, including my father who is a Vietnam War Veteran,” another excerpt read. “It hurts thinking about how I usually celebrate this day because freedom means something completely different to me this year.”

There has been much public pressure for Griner’s release, with those from the WNBA and beyond constantly advocating for Griner. Phoenix Mercury head coach Vanessa Nygaard said Monday that Griner’s continued detainment is a “statement about the value of women.”

“If it was LeBron, he’d be home right?” she said. “It’s a statement about the value of women. It’s a statement about the value of a Black person. It’s a statement about the value of a gay person. All of those. We know it.”

In her letter, Griner said that it “kills me” to know how much her teammates and family are suffering.

“I voted for the first time in 2020 and I voted for you,” she wrote. “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 they are suffering so much right now. I am grateful for whatever you can do at this moment to get me home.”