/  07.19.2022

As pressure mounts for American officials to bring Brittney Griner home, President Biden has just signed an executive order that may do just that. The WNBA star, currently on trial in Russia, was declared “wrongfully detained” in early May. Today (July 19), President Biden has moved to sanction American citizens like Griner.

The Phoenix Mercury athlete isn’t the only American held abroad. According to CNN, former marine Paul Whelan is also in Russian custody for an espionage conviction. In April, he spoke to the outlet about being forgotten. “Why was I left behind?” he began. “I have been held on a fictitious charge of espionage for 40 months. The world knows this charge was fabricated. Why hasn’t more been done to secure my release?” Whelan added.

Along with today’s executive order signing, American citizens traveling abroad will receive a State Department travel advisory before they leave the country. The plan was implemented to prevent “the risk of wrongful detention by a foreign government.” A statement from the White House reads, “This [executive order] expands the tools available to deter and disrupt hostage-taking and wrongful detentions.” Part of the new precaution will be referred to as the “D” indicator, with “D” standing for detention. Burma, China, North Korea, Iran, Venezuela and Russia will reportedly be included in this alert.

According to NPR, China is listed as “Level 3 – reconsider travel.” Other advisories include “Level 4 – do not travel” and “K,” which warns Americans of the risk of kidnapping and hostage-taking. The executive order also means agencies must communicate with family members of detainees or hostages. In Whelan’s case, he did not have that option. “I had barely time to alert my parents and brothers when it was all over the news,” his sister told CNN back in April. She also noted that she “was unhappy that we were given so little time to absorb this bad news.”

Hopefully, today’s announcement will bring hope to Griner, Whelan and countless others in similar situations.

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