Detention of WNBA’s Griner in Moscow extended by one month
WNBA star Brittney Griner had her pretrial detention in Russia extended by one month yesterday, her lawyer said.
Alexander Boykov told The Associated Press he thinks the relatively short extension indicated that Griner’s case would go to trial soon. The 31-year-old American basketball player has been in custody for nearly three months.
Griner, a two-time Olympic gold medallist who plays for the Phoenix Mercury, was detained at a Moscow airport in February after vape cartridges containing oil derived from cannabis were allegedly found in her luggage. She faces drug smuggling charges that carry a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison.
Griner appeared for the brief hearing at a court outside Moscow handcuffed, wearing an orange hoodie and holding her face down. She did not express “any complaints about the detention conditions,” Boykov said.
The Biden administration says Griner is being wrongfully detained. The WNBA and US officials have worked towards her release, without visible progress.
“Today’s news on Brittney Griner was not unexpected, and the WNBA continues to work with the US government to get BG home safely and as soon as possible,” the basketball league said in a statement.
State Dept spokesman Ned Price said diplomats from the US Embassy in Moscow spoke with Griner yesterday and reported she “is doing as well as can be expected in these circumstances.”
Russian officials have described Griner’s case as a criminal offence without making any political associations. But Moscow’s war in Ukraine has brought US-Russia relations to the lowest level since the Cold War.
Despite the strain, Russia and the United States carried out an unexpected prisoner exchange last month – trading former Marine Trevor Reed for Konstantin Yaroshenko, a Russian pilot serving a 20-year federal prison sentence for conspiring to smuggle cocaine into the United States.
While the US does not typically embrace such exchanges, it made the deal in part because Yaroshenko had already served a long portion of his sentence.
The Russians may consider Griner someone who could figure into another such exchange.
The State Department last week said it now regards Griner as wrongfully detained, a change in classification that suggests the US government will be more active in trying to secure her release even while the legal case plays out.