WNBA player Brittney Griner, who has been imprisoned in Russia for more than four months, wrote a letter to the White House, asking President Joe Biden for assistance in bringing her home.
Although most of the letter is deemed private, Griner’s representatives revealed a portion of the document.
“Please do all you can to bring us home,” Griner wrote. It is unclear who else she was referring to, though it could be Paul Whelan, another American citizen imprisoned in Russia whom the U.S. has also declared “wrongfully detained.”
“I still have so much good to do with my freedom that you can help restore,” she said. “I am grateful for whatever you can do at this moment to get me home.”
“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,” wrote Griner.
“On the 4th of July, our family normally honors the service of those who fought for our freedom, including my father, who is a Vietnam War Veteran,” she added. “It hurts thinking about how I usually celebrate this day because freedom means something completely different to me this year.”
The Dallas Express previously reported that Griner was charged in Russia for possessing vape cartridges found in her luggage at a Moscow airport that allegedly contained cannabis oil. Griner, who was arrested in mid-February, was in Russia because she plays basketball with a Russian team in the winter during the WNBA off-season.
Four and a half months later, Griner appeared in court for trial on Friday. If convicted, she could spend up to 10 years in prison.
The prosecution questioned two witnesses during the first day of the trial. An airport representative spoke in open court, and an unnamed witness did so in a closed session, according to the Russian state news source RIA-Novosti.
Griner’s next day in court is set for July 7.
Some experts have theorized that the legal processes may be purely a pretense as Russia continues to emphasize its willingness to negotiate her release, according to The Dallas Express.
Dr. Danielle Gilbert, assistant professor of military and strategic studies at the United States Air Force Academy, postulated that Russia could be hoping to exchange Griner for a Russian prisoner in the U.S. if the basketball player is convicted.
As reported by The Dallas Express, Russian state media has hinted that the country may specifically seek to trade Griner for the “Merchant of Death,” an arms dealer serving a 25-year sentence in Illinois.
Still, the Kremlin denied these allegations following the first day of the trial.
Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov asserted in a conference call on Friday that there was no ulterior motive for Griner’s arrest.
Peskov emphasized Russia’s claim that Griner was detained after carrying “illegal drugs that contained narcotic substances,” which is illegal in the country.
“Based on what I said, her arrest cannot be politically motivated,” he said in summation.