(Bloomberg) -- President Joe Biden has read a letter from WNBA star Brittney Griner urging him to negotiate her release -- along with other Americans detained in Russia -- Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said Tuesday, adding that the matter is a priority for the White House.
“The president did read the letter,” Jean-Pierre told reporters, adding that Biden believes any US national “held hostage abroad” should be returned safely. “We believe she needs to come home, she should be home.”
Griner, a two-time Olympic gold medalist, told Biden in the letter that she was “terrified I might be here forever” and asked the president to “do all you can to bring us home.”
Jean-Pierre declined to comment on the possibility of a prisoner swap as a potential avenue for Griner’s release, citing security and privacy concerns.
Griner, who plays for the Phoenix Mercury, has been detained in Moscow since February after police accused her of illegally trying to import hash oil into the country in vape cartridges. Her trial began Friday, and she faces as many as 10 years in prison on a drug smuggling charge if convicted.
Critics have raised concerns that Griner’s release has not been made enough of a priority, questioning whether a male professional athlete in the same situation might already have been returned to the US.
Read more: WNBA Star Griner Pleads With Biden to Get Her Out of Russia
Jean-Pierre dismissed assertions that bias might be playing into efforts to bring Griner back, saying the president has fought for women, people of color and the LGBTQ community “throughout his career and you have seen that in policies that he has put forward.”
Griner’s wife, Cherelle, told “CBS Mornings” on Tuesday that she believes Brittney Griner reached out to Biden directly because of “failed attempts” by her family to speak with him.
“It kills me every time that when I have to write her and she’s asking, have you met with him yet? And, I have to say no,” she said in the televised interview.
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