US says WNBA star Brittney Griner is now considered ‘wrongfully detained’ by Russia

The decision means that the US will no longer wait for Russia’s legal system to decide on Griner and will pursue all means to secure her release.

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The US said Tuesday it would no longer wait for Russia’s legal system to play out and would change the way it deals with WNBA star Brittney Griner, imprisoned in Russia since February.

“The Department of State has determined that the Russian Federation has wrongfully detained US citizen Brittney Griner,” a State Department official told Al Arabiya English.

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US-based sports channel ESPN was the first to report on the change of Washington’s determination of Griner. The report said that the US would no longer wait for Russia’s legal system to decide on Griner.

Instead, US Special Presidential Envoy for Hostage Affairs Roger Carstens will now lead efforts to ensure Griner is released.

“The US Government will continue to undertake efforts to provide appropriate support to Ms. Griner,” the State Department official said. “The welfare and safety of US citizens abroad is among the highest priorities of the US Government.”

In February, the US basketball star was detained while trying to leave Russia after vape cartridges allegedly filled with cannabis oil were found in her bag.

US officials have been tightlipped about her status despite being pressed by lawmakers and journalists for updates.

According to ESPN, the latest designation as being wrongfully detained means that Griner’s “fellow WNBA players and supporters in Congress will be told they have the family’s blessing to bring as much attention to her case as they wish.”

Read more: President Biden welcomes release of American Trevor Reed from Russia

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