Former Marine Trevor Reed calls on Biden to ramp up efforts to bring imprisoned WNBA star Brittney Griner home from Russia as he describes his own ‘nightmare’ experience before he was freed last month
- Former US Marine Trevor Reed, who spent three years detained in Russia, is calling for increased efforts of freeing WNBA star Brittney Griner
- Griner, 31, was arrested at Moscow airport in February on drug charges
- Griner was in Russia for UMMC Yekaterinburg on a reported $1million contract
- U.S. authorities have said that Griner was wrongfully detained
Former US Marine Trevor Reed called on the Biden administration this week to ramp up efforts to release WNBA star Brittney Griner and other ‘wrongfully detained’ American prisoners while describing his own ‘nightmare’ prison experience before he was freed last month.
Phoenix Mercury star Brittney Griner, 31, was arrested at the Moscow airport on February 18 on drug charges when Russia authorities say she allegedly brought vape cartridges containing hash oil, which is illegal in Russia, into the country.
Griner was in Russia to play for UMMC Yekaterinburg on a reported $1million contract, but could now face up to 10 years in a labor camp for drug smuggling charges.
Reed also called on the US to do more to bring home fellow American detainee Paul Whelan, who was accused of spying in 2018 and was sentenced in 2020 to 16 years in prison.
‘We need to all speak out for these Americans, because every single one of us is an American,’ Reed said.
Reed, who was released in exchange for a drug trafficker, joined supporters at a rally for Griner in Houston on Monday where he described prison conditions as ‘completely inhospitable,’ with rotten food and a lack of medical care.
‘Every day that you’re in prison there, it’s like you’re waking up to a nightmare,’ he said.
‘There is no justice in Russia,’ Reed said. ‘Brittney and Paul will not receive justice in Russia. They’re not going to receive a fair trial, they will not receive a fair investigation. They will be there as hostages until the United States gets them out.’
Former US Marine Trevor Reed is calling on the Biden administration to increase efforts to release WNBA star Brittney Griner from detention in Russia
Phoenix Mercury star Brittney Griner, 31, was arrested at the Moscow airport on February 18 on drug charges when Russia authorities say she allegedly brought hash oil into the country
Reed said Griner would likely face harsher conditions and greater challenges than what he or fellow American prisoner Paul Whelan experienced because the country ‘systematically discriminates’ against individuals who are Black or LGBTQ, he said.
Reed told supporters at the rally on Monday that they should contact lawmakers to bring Griner and Whelan home, along with other detained Americans.
‘Write them, call them, annoy them, don’t leave them alone,’ Reed said. ‘Tell them you want Brittney home and you want the rest of the Americans who are being wrongfully detained home, and you want it done now.’
Basketball star LeBron James was the latest big name to call on the Biden administration to bring Griner home ‘swiftly and safely.’
Reed, who was detained in 2019 and accused of assaulting police officers, stands inside a defendants’ cage during a court hearing in Moscow, Russia July 30, 2020. He was freed in April 2022 in exchange for a drug trafficker
Griner (pictured leaving court in Moscow in May) would likely face harsher conditions and greater challenges than what Reed experienced because the country ‘systematically discriminates’ against individuals who are Black or LGBTQ, he said
Last weekend, some members of the Boston Celtics used their platform at the NBA´s title series to add their voices to the chorus of those demanding Griner be allowed to come home.
Several players wore black T-shirts with ‘We Are BG’ on the front in orange letters for their practice session at the NBA Finals on Saturday.
Griner, a two-time Olympic gold medalist for the U.S., faces drug smuggling charges that carry a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison.
‘It’s been now over 100 days since she’s been illegally held in Russia,’ NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said. ‘I think it’s something that all of us should be heard on, contacting your representatives and others. I will only say we are working in lockstep with the U.S. government and outside experts on trying to expedite her release in any way we can. Certainly our hearts go out to her and her family, and we are just as eager for her safe return.’
Russian officials have described Griner’s case as a criminal offense without making any political associations. But Moscow’s war in Ukraine has brought U.S.-Russia relations to the lowest level since the Cold War.
Despite the strain, Russia and the United States carried out an unexpected prisoner exchange last month – trading former Marine Trevor Reed for Konstantin Yaroshenko, a Russian pilot serving a 20-year federal prison sentence for conspiring to smuggle cocaine into the United States.
Griner, 31, a two-time Olympian, was arrested in Moscow airport and faces a potential 10-year sentence for allegedly carrying drugs
Reed called for advocates of Griner and ‘all Americans wrongfully detained’ to work together ‘because every single one of us is an American’
While the U.S. does not typically embrace such exchanges, it made the deal in part because Yaroshenko had already served a long portion of his sentence. The Russians may consider Griner someone who could figure into another such exchange.
Celtics guard Grant Williams helped coordinate Saturday’s effort, working with the NBPA and the WNBA’s player association as well to make it happen.
He said it’s important NBA players show ‘that love and support’ for Griner.
The WNBA has acknowledged Griner’s absence this season in a number of ways, including social media posts from many players and the league placing a decal with her initials and number on the home floor of all 12 of that league’s teams.
The WNBA star (pictured at the Tokyo Olympics) faces up to 10 years in a labor camp for drug smuggling if found guilty
The Biden administration says Griner is being wrongfully detained while the WNBA and US officials have been working towards her release, without visible progress. The White House called her imprisonment illegal.
In early May, her case was handed off to the US Special Presidential Envoy for Hostage Affairs (SPEHA), which negotiates the release of hostages and other Americans deemed wrongfully detained.
The allegations against Griner have not been proven in court, and several public officials, including US Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee, have accused the Russian government of bringing false charges against Griner and other imprisoned Americans.
The Olympian pleaded not guilty to the charges in a Moscow court.
Russian officials have called out the US, saying state representatives are trying to ‘influence justice’ by sticking their nose in it.
Russian officials say her arrest is based on ‘objective facts and evidence’. ‘She was caught red-handed while trying to smuggle hash oil. In Russia, this is a crime,’ a statement, obtained by CNN, read.
Her lawyer, Alexander Boikov, told The Associated Press the relatively short extension of the detention indicated the case would come to trial soon.
‘The charges are serious, based on objective facts and evidence that is available. Attempts by the State Department to cast doubt on the validity of the detention of B. Griner are explained solely by the desire to influence justice by politicizing a generally understandable situation,’ the statement reportedly read.
‘The final point, in this case, should be made by the court.’
After repeated requests, a State Department official in Moscow was granted consular access to Griner last month and the basketball player, who was the first draft pick for the WNBA, was in ‘good condition.’
A young Phoenix Mercury fan holds up a sign ‘Free Brittney Griner’ during a WNBA basketball game against the Las Vegas Aces, Friday, May 6, 2022, in Phoenix
LeBron James has joined calls for the government to help bring fellow basketball player Brittney Griner back to the US after being detained in Russia where state officials claim she was caught trying to smuggle hash oil into the country
The 37-year-old Lakers legend LeBron James has made a direct plea to the Biden administration to bring Griner home ‘quickly and safely’
‘We were able to check on her condition, we will continue to work very closely with her legal team, with her broader network, to see to it that she is treated fairly,’ a representative said at the time.
‘Our official found Brittney Griner to be in good condition and we will continue to do everything we can to see to it that she is treated fairly throughout this ordeal.’
Her only issue was that the prison beds in the jail were reportedly too short for her 6-foot-9 frame.
Griner won Olympic gold medals with the US national teams in 2016 and 2021 and is a seven-time All-Star who also plays center for the Phoenix Mercury in the WNBA but was drawn to the Russian league for the higher salaries.