Griner asks fans to write letters of support to Whelan
WNBA star Brittney Griner asked her fans to write letters of support to Paul Whelan, a former U.S. Marine who remains detained in Russia, following her own release from a Russian penal colony earlier this month.
“Thanks to the efforts of many, including you, I am home after nearly 10 months,” Griner said in a letter posted to her Instagram on Wednesday. “Your letters helped me to not lose hope during a time where I was full of regret and vulnerable in ways I could have never imagined.”
The Biden administration secured Griner’s release in a one-for-one prisoner swap in early December, handing over convicted Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout in exchange for the two-time Olympic gold medalist.
However, the administration was unable to secure Whelan’s release, noting that the Russians have treated the former U.S. Marine’s case differently due to the espionage charges levied against him.
“Sadly, for totally illegitimate reasons, Russia is treating Paul’s case different than Brittney’s,” Biden said upon the announcement of Griner’s release. “And while we have not yet succeeded in securing Paul’s release, we are not giving up. We will never give up.”
Whelan was arrested in Russia in 2018 and sentenced to 16 years in prison on what the U.S. has denounced as “sham” espionage charges.
In Wednesday’s letter, Griner urged her fans to join her in writing to Whelan and continuing to advocate for the release of other Americans detained abroad.
“There remain too many families with loved ones wrongfully detained,” Griner said. “Those families stood alongside you and all who supported the WeAreBG Campaign to bring me home and it’s our turn to support them.”
Griner and her wife, Cherelle Griner, had previously promised to continue efforts to secure the release of Whelan and other detained Americans.
“I will use my platform to do whatever I can to help you,” Brittney Griner said to Whelan in a statement Friday. “I also encourage everyone that played a part in bringing me home to continue their efforts to bring all Americans home. Every family deserves to be whole.”
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