After 130 days in prison in Russia, American women’s basketball star must stand trial

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Cherelle Griner, wife of WNBA (Women’s National Basketball Association) star Brittney Griner, told CNN on Thursday that she wants US officials to do whatever it takes to bring the basketball legend home — and she need to see them do more.

In the only interview she is giving on the eve of her wife’s trial in Russia, Cherelle Griner sat in the Phoenix Mercury locker room and called for more action.

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“It’s very, very difficult. This is not a situation where rhetoric is matching action,” she said. “Unfortunately, I have to put pressure on people to make sure the things they’re telling me are also in line with their actions, and so it’s been the hardest thing to balance because I can’t give up. It’s been 130 days and Brittney still hasn’t come back.”

Brittney Griner, 31, who played in Russia during the WNBA recess, was arrested Feb. 17 at a Moscow airport. Russian authorities alleged that she had cannabis oil in her luggage and accused her of smuggling significant amounts of a narcotic substance, a crime punishable by up to 10 years in prison.

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Earlier this week, a Russian court scheduled his trial to begin this Friday, according to his lawyer, and ordered his detention to be extended by six months pending the outcome. The US embassy in Moscow will send a diplomat to Friday’s hearing, a US official told CNN.

Cherelle Griner told CNN she wants to see more U.S. officials and meet with them to make sure they’re “at the stage where you’re really doing everything in your power to bring her home,” she said.

At this point, Cherelle said that what the US government is saying is not in line with its actions. She referred to a day when she was supposed to speak to her wife and Brittney called the embassy in Moscow 11 times but was not connected with Cherelle. The State Department blamed the error on personnel restrictions imposed by Russian authorities.

“You don’t have my trust until I see actions that are in BG’s best interest,” Cherelle said.

She also said that she would “absolutely” like to meet with President Joe Biden and humanize Brittney for him so he can “see BG as we see BG”.

“While everyone wants to tell me they care, I would love for him to tell me he cares,” he added.

State Department says it is ‘actively engaged’

US national security adviser Jake Sullivan and Secretary of State Antony Blinken met with Cherelle this week, Sullivan told reporters Tuesday aboard Air Force One.

“Brittney Griner is wrongfully held, wrongfully held and we make that clear as an official determination of the US government. Second, the Russian government must release her and allow her to be returned to her family and return home safe and sound. “, Sulivan said.

Sullivan declined to detail US efforts to resolve Griner’s case, citing the “sensitive matter”, but said the Biden administration is “actively engaged”.

‘Don’t be quiet,’ families of other detained Americans told her.

While Cherelle was unable to reach Brittney, the couple exchanged letters. Cherelle said Brittney recently assured her that her time in detention didn’t drive her crazy after photos of Brittney’s court appearance left his wife disheartened. Brittany wrote that she is exhausted and it was disconcerting to walk out into a courtroom where there were about 100 members of the media and cameras, Cherelle said.

A photo by Kirill Kudryavstev from Agence France-Presse shows Brittney at her preliminary hearing on Monday, arriving at the courthouse in handcuffs and flanked by guards in black vests.

Cherelle noted that his wife, who is 6-foot-3, takes a five-hour round trip on court days, and when she’s transferred, she’s in a “very, very, very small cage” with her long legs tucked in at the hip. knee.

Cherelle said she also met with families of people who were or remain detained in Russia and other countries. She described that families are loving, genuine and broken people. “And the first thing they said was, you know, ‘don’t be quiet about it. Don’t let them forget your loved one,” she said.

She was impressed when she learned that for some of these families it was a three- or four-year ordeal, he added.

“My heart was broken to hear this because I pray to God, you know, three years don’t go by and BG is still unfairly detained in Russia,” she said.

Make an exchange if necessary, says the wife.

Griner’s supporters have expressed concern that she could be used as a political pawn, given rising tensions amid Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

At first, it was difficult for her to imagine that her wife could be used as a pawn, Cherelle told CNN. But she said she realized that the answer to the question of whether it is possible is “yes”. She said she thinks Russia might get something in return for letting Brittney go.

“And at this point, I want them to. Whatever you want, please ask.” She said with a laugh.

She said she hasn’t heard much about the measures being contemplated to bring her wife home.

But if a prisoner exchange is what is needed, then, “Yes, do it.”

Mercury coach wants Griner a priority for Washington

At a pre-game press conference on Wednesday, Phoenix Mercury head coach Vanessa Nygaard said: “We are hearing more noise from the Biden administration than there is – they are supporting us and they know this is a priority. Well, let’s make it a priority. I know our Phoenix community feels deeply. Everywhere I go in Phoenix, everyone asks me about BG… We just need our government and everyone in power to really push for it (release).”

Nygaard also said the team will rally for Griner next week.

Griner is one of the best basketball players in the world. The center won two Olympic gold medals and a WNBA title. She was a six-time WNBA All-Star, three times as a starter. This season, she will be honored as a starter in the All-Star game, scheduled for July 10.

Last season, she averaged 20.5 points, 9.5 rebounds and 1.9 blocks per game.

CNN’s Abby Phillip reported from Phoenix and Steve Almasy reported and wrote from Atlanta. Betsy Klein, Kylie Atwood, Jacob Lev, Dakin Andone and Anna Chernova contributed to this report.

Source: CNN Brasil

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