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The U.S. State Department has now classified WNBA star Brittney Griner as ‘wrongfully detained’ by the Russian government.
According to CNN, her case is now being handled by the office of the U.S. Special Presidential Envoy for Hostage Affairs (SPEHA) Roger Carstens, a State Department official said.
Griner has been detained in Russia with no access to family, friends, or U.S. attorneys since mid-February after airport security officials found a vape pen containing extracts of cannabis in her luggage.
“Brittney has been detained for 75 days and our expectation is that the White House do whatever is necessary to bring her home,” Griner’s agent, Lindsay Kagawa Colas, said in a statement to ESPN on Tuesday.
U.S. to negotiate release of Brittney Griner
The change in official designation means that the U.S. government will no longer wait for Griner’s case to play out through the Russian legal system and will seek to negotiate her return. It also 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.
The SPEHA office leads and coordinates the government’s diplomatic efforts aimed at securing the release of Americans wrongfully detained abroad. They played a major role in securing the release of US citizen and former Marine Trevor Reed from Russia last week.
“When it comes to our efforts to free Americans, the Special Presidential Envoy for Hostage Affairs Ambassador Carstens, he will go anywhere, he will talk to anyone if it means that we’re able to come home with an American, to reunite that American with her or his family,” State Department spokesperson Ned Price said Monday.