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Brittney Griner calls for more effort to free Americans detained overseas

by Lance Luo December 10, 2023 5:39 AM 2 min read
Griner at a WNBA match in 2019. (Lorie Shaull)
This audio is created with AI assistance

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WNBA star Brittney Griner on Dec. 8 commemorated one year since her release from Russia and called for more effort to free others currently  detained overseas, highlighting the plight of wrongfully imprisoned Americans Paul Whelan and Evan Gershkovich, The Hill reported.

“As you gather with loved ones and take part in your family’s traditions, please tell them how much you love them and also, please take a moment to think about and share a story, send a letter or call a representative about one of the many Americans being held away from their families this holiday season,” the Griner family said.

Griner, formerly a professional basketball player in Russia, was detained by border guards in February 2022 at a Moscow airport on drug-related allegations and held for nearly 10 months. Her arrest occured around the same time as Putin's invasion of Ukraine and further soured relations between Washington and Moscow, ending only after she was traded for Viktor Bout, a convicted Russian arms dealer.

Paul Whelan, a former U.S. Marine accused of spying and arrested in 2018, is also considered to be wrongfully detained by the U.S. State Department. Evan Gershkovich, a reporter for The Wall Street Journal who was arrested in March 2023 and accused of espionage, has also been labeled wrongfully detained.

Whelan has publicly expressed anger at the Biden administration for leaving him behind when two fellow citizens were traded for Russian nationals imprisoned in the U.S. Details behind negotiations with Moscow are opaque.

“This game of diplomatic niceties and pleasant dialogue needs to end...The White House, National Security Council and Department of State must take decisive action to secure my release. President Biden, I have paid a high price for being an American citizen. A promise is a promise. The clock is ticking on getting this done. Please bring me home.”

A September study by the James P. Foley Foundation assessed that about 80 percent of the Americans detained in 2022 were in China, Iran, Russia or Venezuela.

The Biden administration also working to free over 130 hostages, many with U.S. citizenship, who are being held in the Gaza Strip by Hamas, a U.S.-designated terrorist group.

CNN: Moscow court denies US journalist Gershkovich’s appeal, remands him in custody
Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich, arrested in Russia on espionage charges, appealed his pre-trial detention terms at a hearing on April 18, according to CNN. Gershkovich asked to be placed under house arrest rather than in jail, but the Moscow City Court denied his appeal.

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