OPINION: This article may contain commentary which reflects the author’s opinion.
Former Russian Prisoner and American citizen Trevor Reed has detailed what he believes life is going to be like for WNBA star Brittney Griner in a Russian prison.
Griner is still behind bars in Russia after being sentenced to 9 years and is in for a tough time, he said.
“Regardless of how you feel about Brittney Griner’s case, that sentence is clearly political. There’s no denying that. Once you are convicted in a Russian court, you do have a chance to go to appeals and appeal that decision to another kangaroo court in Moscow. So after that trial, you know, depending on Brittney’s decision on whether she wants to appeal or not, she may stay in Moscow at the detention facility that she is already at until her appeals are completed. Or if she chooses not to go to appeals, they may transfer her to a forced labor camp. Considering the fact that the Russian government is considering exchanging her, they may also decide to leave her in Moscow to make it easier for her to be returned to the United States,” Reed said.
Reed said that those who are sent to the labor camps are “facing serious threats to their health” because of malnutrition and the lack of medical care.
“I am hoping that there will be an exchange that we are able to get them home, so I am hoping for the best in that,” he said of Griner and Paul Whelan.
Griner pleaded guilty to bringing vape cartridges that contained cannabis oil into Russia, which is a crime.
The White House revealed this week that there has not been any progress on negotiations with Russian officials to free Griner as she appeals her prison sentence.
White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said during a press briefing Tuesday that the Kremlin has yet to respond to the “serious” proposal made by the Biden administration in July to free Griner. Jean-Pierre reiterated the White House’s stance that Griner has been wrongfully imprisoned and called her coming appeal “another sham judicial proceeding.”
A Russian court in August sentenced Griner, an Olympic gold medalist and top player with the Women’s National Basketball Association’s (WNBA’s) Phoenix Mercury, to nine years in prison and a fine of about $16,000 after being found guilty of drug smuggling with criminal intent.
U.S. officials swiftly condemned the verdict and said they were working on a potential prisoner swap for Griner and Paul Whelan, another American who is serving time in Russia after the former Marine was arrested on espionage charges in 2018 at a Moscow hotel and later convicted to 16 years in prison. The proposed deal to free Griner reportedly involves the U.S. releasing Viktor Bout, an infamous Russian arms dealer known as the “Merchant of Death.”
Last month, Cherelle Griner, the wife of Griner, met with President Biden.
Cherelle spoke with reporters after the meeting and noted that the White House said it is doing everything it can to help Griner and Paul Whelan’s family.
“Cherelle’s sense after meeting with Biden was that negotiations have been very complex but that Biden is determined to get a deal done,” CNN’s Abby Phillip wrote.
“I don’t think they have quite figured out exactly what Russia wants in return for BG,” Cherelle said, per Phillip.
Cherelle said she has exchanged a few letters with Griner during her imprisonment in Russia and that she believes things have taken a “dark turn.”
“She’s not well, Cherelle told Phillip. “She’s losing it.”
Cherelle also released a statement of her own following the Biden meeting.
“I’ve felt every minute of the grueling seven months without her,” she said. “I look forward to the day my wife is back home. As my family and I continue on this journey, I’d like to thank the broad coalition of friends, leaders, and supporters who continue to stand with us and advocate for Brittney’s swift and safe return. Let’s share a unified commitment to bringing all Americans home to their families and loved ones. Together We Are BG.”
Russia has confirmed that it is in talks to swap Griner for Viktor Bout, the notorious “Merchant of Death” arms dealer who has been imprisoned in the United States since 2010.
A former DEA agent slammed the potential deal, calling it “dangerous” for the United States.