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Brittney Griner Was ‘Wrongfully Detained’, U.S. Government Says

In March, a Russian court extended Griner’s detention until at least May 19 and denied an appeal from Griner’s legal team in Russia, who had hoped to have her transferred to house arrest. That hearing did not deal with the merits of the case.

Word of Griner’s new status comes less than a week after the United States conducted a prisoner swap with Moscow. Russia had for two years detained Trevor R. Reed, a former U.S. Marine, on what his family considered to be trumped-up charges of assault.

Reed’s release renewed optimism that Griner would also be freed.

“As I do everything in my power to get BG home, my heart is overflowing with joy for The Reed family,” Griner’s wife, Cherelle Griner, wrote on Instagram. “I do not personally know them, but I do know the pain of having your loved one detained in a foreign country. That level of pain is constant and can only be remedied by a safe return home.”

Among publicly-known cases of Americans wrongfully held abroad, the average case has lasted more than four years, said Cynthia Loertscher, director of research at the nonprofit James W. Foley Legacy Foundation. The foundation is named after an American journalist kidnapped in Syria and executed by the Islamic State in 2014.

The United States has designated as wrongfully detained Americans citizens and U.S. nationals who are currently imprisoned in China, Venezuela, Iran, Afghanistan, Belarus, Myanmar and Cuba, among several other nations. In an interview with “60 Minutes” that aired in February, Roger D. Carstens, the diplomat who will be overseeing the interagency effort to free Griner, said that over 40 Americans were wrongfully detained abroad.

Many W.N.B.A. players join international teams to earn additional income during the league’s off-season. The top-tier players can make more than $1 million by playing in Russia. Griner, a two-time Olympic gold medalist and seven-time All-Star, is set to earn about $228,000 with the W.N.B.A.’s Phoenix Mercury in the 2022 season, according to the website Her Hoop Stats, just shy of the league’s maximum salary.

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