PHOENIX MERCURY

Report: U.S. Rep. Allred working for release of Brittney Griner from Russia

Mar 9, 2022, 8:31 PM | Updated: 8:59 pm

Brittney Griner #42 and Diana Taurasi #3 of the Phoenix Mercury reacts to a foul call in the second...

Brittney Griner #42 and Diana Taurasi #3 of the Phoenix Mercury reacts to a foul call in the second half during the game against the Chicago Sky at Footprint Center on October 10, 2021 in Phoenix, Arizona. (Photo by Mike Mattina/Getty Images)

(Photo by Mike Mattina/Getty Images)

U.S. Rep. Colin Allred of Texas is working with the State Department for the release of Phoenix Mercury center Brittney Griner from Russia, according to ESPN.

Griner was detained entering Russia on Feb. 17 after the Russian Federal Customs Service allegedly found vape cartridges containing oil derived from cannabis in her luggage, which is a crime punishable by up to 10 years in prison.

The seven-time All-Star was playing for UMMC Ekaterinburg in Russia during the WNBA offseason.

My office has been in touch with the State Department, and we’re working with them to see what is the best way forward. I know the administration is working hard to try and get access to her and try to be helpful here. But obviously, it’s also happening in the context of really strained relations. I do think that it’s really unusual that we’ve not been granted access to her from our embassy and our consular services.

The Russian criminal justice system is very different than ours, very opaque. We don’t have a lot of insight into where she is in that process right now. But she’s been held for three weeks now, and that’s extremely concerning.

Allred is a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and a former Baylor football player from 2001-05 before playing for the Tennessee Titans for four seasons.

Griner also played her college ball at Baylor from 2009-13 before being drafted by the Mercury No. 1 overall in the 2013 WNBA Draft.

Recent precedents of Americans imprisoned in Russia include former United States Marines Trevor Reed and Paul Whelan, who were arrested in 2019 and 2018, respectively.

Reed was sentenced to nine years for allegedly resisting arrest and attacking officers, while Whelan received a 16-year sentence for espionage.

Both men dispute the charges against them.

So this is not the first time in recent years that an American has been detained and then held either without reason or without a sufficient kind of explanation. What’s obviously different here is that Brittney is an extremely high-profile athlete, and it’s happening during the course of a Russian-begun war in Ukraine, in which we are deeply opposed to what they’re doing.

This would normally be run through our embassy or consular services in the country. It’s also true that we’re drawing down some of our embassy personnel in Moscow and the State Department has asked all Americans in Russia to leave. But I don’t think that’s going to impact the ability for them to advocate on her behalf.

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