For over four months, basketball player Brittney Griner has been detained in Russia. At this point, she’s “terrified I might be here forever.”
That’s what she told President Joe Biden in a letter she sent directly to him over the Fourth of July holiday weekend. Griner’s plea for assistance was emotional. “I miss my wife! I miss my family! I miss my teammates!” she wrote. “It kills me to know they are suffering so much right now. I am grateful for whatever you can do at this moment to get me home.”
Russian authorities first detained Griner in February 2022 near Moscow, accusing her of transporting and smuggling cannabis as justification. The arrest came roughly one week before the invasion of Ukraine.
Former FBI agent Tim Bradley told TIME that “I have to believe that she was targeted, based on the pending invasion.” He added that “the Russian government has a long history of wrongfully detaining U.S. citizens … [and also] has a very closed view towards the LGBTQ community. That could have made her a more obvious target for them.”
Since her arrest, Griner’s detention has been extended numerous times – most recently to Dec. 20, reportedly to accommodate the length of her trial, which began July 1. Both U.S. government and WNBA officials, as well as Griner’s legal representatives, have been working in tandem to bring her home.
Griner’s letter was the latest attempt at making progress. But according to her wife, Cherelle Griner, Biden has yet to respond to the letter sent his way. “I still have not heard from him. And honestly, it’s very disheartening,” she said to CBS Mornings.
Meanwhile, there are concerns regarding the fairness of her trial. “There’s no real idea or expectation that the defendant could be innocent. There’s no presumption of innocence, really,” William Pomeranz, acting director of the Kennan Institute, told The New York Times. A prisoner exchange is likely her best prospect of returning to the U.S. at this point, experts added.
Until then, “I sit here in a Russian prison, alone,” Griner wrote in her letter to Biden, adding a plea to “please do all you can to bring [myself and other detained Americans] home.”