Basketball star Brittney Griner wrongfully detained in Russia, says US government
Posted On May 3, 2022
The US State Department has now classified basketball star Brittney Griner as wrongfully detained in Russia.
The case is being handled by the office of the US Special Presidential Envoy for Hostage Affairs (SPEHA) Roger Carstens, a State Department official has confirmed.
The SPEHA office leads and coordinates the government’s diplomatic efforts aimed at securing the release of Americans wrongfully detained abroad, and the shift to their office means more flexibility in efforts to negotiate her freedom, as they do not necessarily have to wait for Russian legal proceedings to play out.
Mr Carstens and his team played a major role in securing the release of US citizen and Marine veteran Trevor Reed from Russia last week.
“When it comes to our efforts to free Americans, the Special Presidential Envoy for Hostage Affairs Ambassador Carstens, he will go anywhere, he will talk to anyone if it means that we’re able to come home with an American, to reunite that American with her or his family,” State Department spokesperson Ned Price said.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki said the decision to classify Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) star Griner as wrongfully detained was made “in coordination with the hostage negotiator [Carstens] and the State Department.”
“But typically, and I don’t believe this will change, in order to, to leave the space to have an outcome we all want and desire, which is to bring her and any Americans detained or unjustifiably detained home, we typically don’t talk about it extensively,” she said.
Griner’s agent, Lindsay Kagawa Colas, said in a statement, “Brittney has been detained for 75 days and our expectation is that the White House do whatever is necessary to bring her home.”
In addition to work by the Biden administration, the Richardson Centre, which privately advocates on behalf of families of hostages and detainees and was involved in getting Mr Reed home, is also working on behalf of the Griner family to try to secure her release.
Griner, a two-time Olympic gold medallist and a star for the WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury, was arrested in February at a Moscow airport and accused by Russian authorities of smuggling significant amounts of a narcotic substance – an offence punishable by up to 10 years in prison.
She plays for Russian powerhouse UMMC Ekaterinburg during the WNBA offseason.
The WNBA has said it will honour Griner, a seven-time all-star, during the 2022 season with her initials and jersey number (42) along the sidelines of all 12 home courts.
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