Brittney Griner being led to a hearing in a Russian court.
KIRILL KUDRYAVTSEV/AFP via Getty Images
- President Joe Biden on Tuesday signed an executive order dealing with wrongful detainments abroad.
- The move comes as advocates continue to push for WNBA star Brittney Griner’s release from Russia.
- The order allows US agencies to punish countries that are involved in hostage taking.
President Joe Biden on Tuesday issued an executive order aimed at improving efforts to bring American hostages home and punish the foreign countries that wrongfully detain them.
The order allows US agencies to impose a slate of consequences, including financial sanctions and visa bans, on state and non-state entities involved in wrongful detentions and hostage-taking.
Senior administration officials said Tuesday that the action is meant to deter unlawful imprisonments around the world, as well as secure the release of Americans who remain unjustly detained abroad.
The move comes as advocates and family members continue to push for WNBA star Brittney Griner’s release from a Russian prison. The basketball player has been detained since February when officials alleged they discovered vape cartridges containing hashish oil in her luggage at the Moscow airport.
The executive order, which Biden signed Tuesday, also allows US government agencies to more openly communicate with hostages’ families about the country’s efforts to secure their release in an attempt to be more transparent.
Brittney Griner’s wife, Cherelle Griner, had previously slammed Biden and the administration for not doing enough to bring Britney home. But Cherelle changed her tune earlier this month after she and Biden were able to talk via phone call, during which the president read to Cherelle a draft of a letter he wrote in response to a direct plea from Brittney for help.
Griner pleaded guilty to drug smuggling charges in Russia earlier this month. Experts previously told Insider’s Meredith Cash that her best chance to be released is in a prisoner swap between the US and Russia.
Family members of detained Americans learned about the Tuesday executive order during a Monday phone call with administration officials, according to CNN. Participants in the call had mixed reactions to the conversation and ensuing order rollout, the outlet reported. Some family members said the action was a “welcome step,” but others told CNN that the move failed to address their larger concerns, which include a desired meeting with Biden.
The administration on Tuesday also announced that it would add a new warning indicator to State Department travel advisories to note countries where US citizens could be at risk of wrongful detention by foreign governments. The new risk indicator — marked by the letter “D” — will be applied to Myanmar, China, Iran, North Korea, Russia, and Venezuela, administration officials said.