Dozens of organizations representing coloreds, women and LGBTQ voters on Wednesday called on President Biden to reach an agreement on the release of Brittney Griner, the WNBA star who has been detained in Russia since February.
In a letter sent to Mr. Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris, the groups said Ms Griner “continues to endure inhuman treatment, deprived of contact with her family.”
The letter said the United States “has acknowledged that Brittney is fundamentally a political piece in classifying her as wrongfully detained.” And while the signatories cited “deep appreciation” for the administration’s efforts to free Ms. Laughing, “we now urge you to make an appointment to get Brittney home to America immediately and safely.”
Phoenix Mercury basketball player was detained in Russia on 17 February on accusations that she had hash oil in her luggage. Initially, Ms. Griner’s camp was concerned that publicity could exacerbate the situation due to tensions between Russia and the United States, including the war in Ukraine.
But the group’s approach has changed since then The State Department said on May 3 that it had established that Mrs Griner had been “wrongfully detained.” This meant that the United States could use greater force to bring her home despite the trial against her in Russia.
In recent weeks, players from the WNBA who work with Ms. Griner’s wife, Cherelle, and others, tried to draw attention to her case.
The latest effort, the letter from groups including the National Organization for Women, the Human Rights Campaign, the National Urban League and the National Action Network, was coordinated by Ms. Griner’s agent, Lindsay Kagawa Colas, who worked with Democratic strategist Karen Finney and others. The groups, which represent a coalition of constituencies that helped elect Mr. Biden, speaks out amid growing frustrations over the pace of efforts to bring Ms. Laughing at home.
“As far as I understand, they have not started negotiating her release, and therefore this letter is very powerful because it needs support to highlight the fact that we are in the stage where you should make a deal,” he said. Cherelle Griner.
“I wish I could say I have a clear understanding of that,” she said of the White House strategy. “They talk a lot in code with me.”
The administration, she said, “is considering whether to start negotiations,” when it has already been established that her wife was wrongfully detained. “Instead, they argue, and they waste time from my wife’s life.”
White House officials declined to comment.
Administration officials have said Mr Biden’s team is in regular contact with the Griner family and that Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken spoke with Cherelle Griner in May. The Special Envoy for Hostage Affairs is also in contact with Mrs Griner’s team.
Bill Richardson, the former governor of New Mexico and the former US ambassador to the UN, has also worked to try to free Ms. Laughing and another American in Russia, former Marine Paul Whelan, who has been detained since 2018.
Still, Cherelle Griner said she was unsure how much the White House prioritized the case. She told The Associated Press that she was to speak to her wife by phone for the first time in about four months over the weekend, but a logistical problem at the US Embassy in Moscow changed plans.
According to the AP, the embassy was to facilitate the call between the two women. But when Brittney Griner called the embassy to be patched through to her wife in the United States, there was no answer. Brittney Griner’s lawyers said she tried to call the line 11 times while her wife waited in vain for the call, the AP reported.
“I was desperate. I was hurt. I was done, tired,” Cherelle Griner told the AP