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Brittney Griner’s Supporters Call on Biden to Strike a Deal to Free Her

Dozens of organizations representing people of color, women and LGBTQ voters on Wednesday called on President Biden to negotiate a deal for the release of Brittney Griner, the WNBA star who has been detained in Russia since February.

In a letter to Mr Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris, the groups said Ms Griner “continues to undergo inhumane treatment, deprived of contact with her family.”

The letter states that the United States has “recognized that Brittney is essentially a political pawn by classifying her as wrongly detained.” And while the signatories cited “deep appreciation” for the government’s efforts to free Ms. Griner, “we now urge you to strike a deal to get Brittney back home to America immediately and safely.”

The Phoenix Mercury basketball player was arrested in Russia on February 17 on charges of having hash oil in her luggage. At first, Ms. Griner’s camp feared that publicity would exacerbate the situation because of tensions between Russia and the United States, including the war in Ukraine.

But the group’s approach has changed since the State Department said on May 3 it determined Ms Griner had been “wrongly detained”. That meant the United States could put in more effort to bring her home, despite legal action against her in Russia.

In recent weeks, WNBA players, who teamed up with Mrs. Griner’s wife Cherelle and others, have tried to draw attention to her case.

The latest effort, the letter from the National Organization for Women, the Human Rights Campaign, the National Urban League and the National Action Network, among others, was coordinated by Democratic strategist Karen Finney. The groups, representing a coalition of constituencies that helped elect Mr Biden, are speaking out amid growing frustrations at the pace of efforts to bring Ms Griner home.

“As far as I understand, they have not yet started negotiating her release, so this letter is very strong because it is the much needed support to emphasize that we are at the stage where you should make a deal,” he said. Cherelle Griner.

“I wish I could say I have a clear understanding of it,” she said of the White House strategy. “They talk to me in code a lot.”

The government, she said, is “discussing whether to start negotiations” while it has already been determined that her wife was wrongly detained. “Instead they argue and waste time of my wife’s life.”

White House officials declined to comment.

Government officials have said Mr Biden’s team is in regular contact with the Griner family and Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken met with Cherelle Griner in May. The special hostage envoy is also in touch with Mrs. Griner’s team.

Still, Cherelle Griner said she wasn’t sure how much priority the White House was giving the case. She told The Associated Press that she would speak with 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 disrupted plans.

According to the AP, the embassy had to facilitate the conversation between the two women. But when Brittney Griner called the embassy to be put through to her wife in the United States, there was no answer. Brittney Griner’s lawyers said she tried to call 11 times while her wife waited unsuccessfully for the call, The AP reported.

“I was distraught. I was hurt. I was done, I was tired,” Cherelle Griner told The AP

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