By Emily Caldwell, The Dallas Morning News
The U.S. House has passed a resolution calling for the immediate release of WNBA star and Houston native Brittney Griner, whom the U.S. government considers to be wrongfully and unjustly detained in Russia.
The bipartisan resolution, introduced and led by Reps. Colin Allred, D-Dallas, Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Houston, and Rep. Greg Stanton, D-Ariz., had 65 cosponsors in the House, including six Republicans. Allred, Jackson Lee and Stanton first introduced the resolution in May.
The resolution calls on the Russian Federation to not only immediately release Griner but to ensure her human rights are respected and she has access to U.S. consular services. It also expresses support for former Marine Paul Whelan and “all prisoners unjustly imprisoned in the Russian Federation.”
“It’s unacceptable that Russia continues to violate international norms and I am proud that the House has spoken in passing our resolution and calling for (Griner’s) swift release,” Allred, a member of the Foreign Affairs Committee, said in a statement. “I will keep working with the Biden Administration to do all we can to bring home every American detained abroad.”
Cherelle Griner, Brittney’s wife, said she was grateful for the “overwhelming show of support from Congress.”
“We need to be doing all we can to keep Brittney’s case on the forefront and finally put an end to this nightmare,” she said.
The Phoenix Mercury, Griner’s WNBA team, showed its support for the resolution on Twitter.
On Monday, Griner was ordered to stand trial by a court near Moscow on cannabis possession charges, about four and a half months after her arrest at an airport while returning to play for a Russian team.
Russian authorities said a search of her luggage at the airport revealed vape cartridges allegedly containing hashish oil, which could carry a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison. At Monday’s closed-door preliminary hearing at the court in the Moscow suburb of Khimki, Griner’s detention was extended for another six months, to Dec. 20.
“Russia is now engaging in theatre by subjecting her to a sham trial in an effort to create a false pretence that she is anything other than a political prisoner,” Allred said.
On Tuesday, National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan also called on Russia to release Griner, reiterating that the U.S. government has determined Griner is wrongfully and unjustly detained and should be allowed to return home.
“The United States government is actively engaged in trying to resolve this case and get Brittney home,” Sullivan said. “I’m not going to get into the details of what that means because these are sensitive matters, but I will tell you it has the fullest attention of the President and every senior member of his national security and diplomatic team.”
Sullivan said the Biden administration is actively working to find a solution, and will continue to do so “without rest” until Griner is back in the U.S.
“We also are trying to work actively to return all unjustly detained Americans and hostages being held overseas, whether that be in Iran or Afghanistan or Russia or Venezuela or China or elsewhere,” Sullivan said.
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