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Bipartisan Group of Senators Introduces Resolution Calling for Brittney Griner’s Release

Republicans and Democrats have merged their support for a resolution to release Brittney griner, the former basketball star being held at a Russian prison in February because of drug charges.

More than 30 senators joined as cosponsors of the resolution, which “calls on the Government of the Russian Federation to immediately release [Griner]”; “urges the United States, in all interactions with the Government of the Russian Federation, to raise the case of Brittney Griner and to press for her release”; “urges the Government of the Russian Federation to provide consular access to Brittney Griner while she remains in detention”; “urges the Government of the Russian Federation to respect the human rights of Brittney Griner”; and “expresses support to the family of Brittney Griner and a commitment to bringing her home.”

The resolution additionally expresses support for Paul Whelan, a U.S. citizen who was arrested in Russia in 2018 on espionage charges, along with “all prisoners unjustly imprisoned in the Russian Federation.”

This was the work of Democratic Senators. Mark Kelly and Kristen Sinema, both of Arizona, where Griner’s WNBA team the Phoenix Mercury plays, as well as Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon and Republican Sen. John Cornyn of Texas, the home of Griner’s alma mater, Baylor University.

“I’ve worked with the State Department to make sure that Brittney Griner’s safe return is a top priority, and this bipartisan resolution shows the Senate’s support for her as well. Brittney Griner inspires Americans all over the nation, including Arizonans. I’ve had the pleasure of meeting her and seeing her talent on the court up close. The Russian government unjustly detained Brittney and we will keep working with the administration to ensure her safe and swift return,” Kelly said in a statement on Thursday.

“Arizonans have love and admiration for Brittney Griner both on and off the court,” Sinema said. “The Department of State has determined that Brittney was wrongfully detained – it’s past time for her to come home.”

Griner was arrested on February 17 at an airport in Moscow while traveling back to Russia to complete her season for UMMC Ekaterinburg, which she plays for during the WNBA’s offseason.

Her charges include carrying cannabis oil in her suitcase and she could face up to 10 year imprisonment for drug offenses.

Griner admitted to all charges but stated that she didn’t intend to be a criminal after her trial began earlier this month.

Griner’s detention, coming not long before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, is widely viewed as politically motivated. The U.S. Department of State in May reclassified Griner as “wrongfully detained.”

Russia suggested recently that Russia could seek a prisoner trade involving Griner, Viktor Bout and Griner. Viktor Bout was a Russian arms dealer serving a 25-year sentence in U.S. Federal Prison.

President Joe Biden faces increasing pressure to send Griner home.

Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris spoke with Griner’s wife, Cherelle Griner, earlier this month, after Brittney Griner sent a letter to the president.

“As I sit here in a Russian prison, alone with my thoughts and without the protection of my wife, family, friends, Olympic jersey, or any accomplishments, I’m terrified I might be here forever,” Griner wrote in the letter.

“I realize you are dealing with so much, but please don’t forget about me and the other American Detainees,” Griner continued. “Please do all you can to bring us home. In 2020, I voted my first time and voted in your favor. I trust in you. There is so much I can do for my freedom, and you could help me restore it. My wife is missing me! I miss my family! It’s hard to imagine my team without them! I am so sorry that they are going through this. I am grateful for whatever you can do at this moment to get me home.”