Dozens of organizations representing people of color, women and LGBT voters called on President Joe Biden on Wednesday to make a deal for the release of Britney Greiner, a WNBA star who has been detained in Russia since February.
In a letter sent to Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris, the groups said Greiner “continues to endure inhumane treatment, denied contact with her family.”
The letter said the United States “has acknowledged that Britney is essentially a political pawn in her designation as being unjustly detained”. While the signatories noted “deep appreciation” for the administration’s efforts to release Griner, “we now urge you to make a deal to bring Britney home to America immediately and safely.”
Basketball player Phoenix Mercury was arrested in Russia on February 17 for having cannabis oil in her bag. Initially, Grenier’s camp was concerned that propaganda could make the situation worse due to tensions between Russia and the United States, including the war in Ukraine.
But the group’s approach has changed since the State Department said May 3 that it had determined Greiner was “unfairly detained.” This means that the United States can do more to bring her home despite legal action against her in Russia.
In recent weeks, WNBA players, working with Griner’s wife, Cherelle, and others have tried to draw attention to her case.
The latest effort, the message from groups including the National Organization for Women, the Human Rights Campaign, the National Urban League and the National Action Network, was coordinated with Griner’s agent, Lindsay Kagawa Colas, who worked with Democratic strategist Karen Feeney and others. The groups, representing the coalition of constituencies that helped elect Biden, speak amid growing frustrations about the pace of efforts to bring Griner home.
“As far as I understand, they haven’t started negotiating her release, so this message is very powerful because it’s a much-needed support to highlight the fact that we’re at the point where you guys should be making a deal,” Cherelle Griner said.
“I wish I could say I have a clear understanding of that,” she said of the White House’s strategy. “They talk to me a lot about programming.”
She said the administration was “discussing whether they should start negotiating,” after it had already determined that his wife was being unjustly detained. “Instead, they argue and waste time from my wife’s life.”
White House officials, in a commentary after this article was posted online, said, “President Biden has been clear about the need to release all American citizens held hostage or unjustly held abroad, including Britney Greiner. The United States government continues to act aggressively — using All available means – to return her to her homeland. ”
Administration officials said Biden’s team is in regular contact with the Greiner family and that Secretary of State Anthony Blinken spoke with Cheryl Greiner in May. The Special Envoy for Hostage Affairs is also in touch with Britney Grenier’s team.
Bill Richardson, the former governor of New Mexico and former US ambassador to the United Nations, is also working to try to free Grenier and another American in Russia, former Marine Paul Whelan, who has been in custody since 2018.
However, Sheryl Greiner said she was not sure how much the White House would prioritize the issue. She told The Associated Press that she was supposed to speak to her wife on the phone for the first time in about four months over the weekend, but a logistical problem at the US Embassy in Moscow turned plans upside down.
According to the Associated Press, the embassy was supposed to facilitate contact between the women. But when Britney Greiner called the embassy to call her wife in the US, there was no answer. Britney Greiner’s lawyers said she tried to call the line 11 times while her wife waited to no avail, the Associated Press reported.
“I was in a daze. I got hurt. I’m done, I’m sick,” Cheryl Greiner told The Associated Press.
This article originally appeared in the New York Times.