According to her lawyer, Brittney Griner’s pre-trial detention in Russia was extended by one month on Friday.
According to Alexander Boykov of The Associated Press, the relatively brief delay indicates that Griner’s case will go to trial shortly. The American basketball star, 31, has been detained for over three months.
In February, Griner, a two-time Olympic gold medalist for the Phoenix Mercury, was held at a Moscow airport when vape cartridges purportedly containing cannabis oil were discovered in her luggage. She is charged with cocaine smuggling, which carries a maximum of ten years in jail.
Griner appeared in the court outside of Moscow shackled, wearing an orange sweatshirt and holding her face down. Boykov stated that she did not make “any objections about the custody circumstances.”
According to the Biden administration, Griner is being unlawfully jailed. The WNBA and US officials have sought to free her, but there has been no noticeable movement.
“Today’s news on Brittney Griner was not anticipated,” the WNBA stated. “The WNBA continues to work with the US government to get BG home safely and quickly.”
Brittney Griner, a WNBA player, arrested in Russia, is only guilty of obtaining a pay commensurate with her ability.
The United States State Department considers State Department spokesman Ned Price said officials from the US Embassy in Moscow talked with WNBA star Brittney Griner on Friday and reported she “is doing as well as can be anticipated given these circumstances.”
Russian officials have framed Griner’s case as criminal with no political overtones. However, Moscow’s campaign in Ukraine has lowered US-Russia ties to their lowest point since the Cold War.
Despite the tensions, Russia and the United States exchanged prisoners last month, exchanging former Marine Trevor Reed for Konstantin Yaroshenko, a Russian pilot serving a 20-year federal prison sentence for conspiracy to transport cocaine into the United States.
While the US does not normally support such swaps, the arrangement was partly reached because Yaroshenko had already completed a significant portion of his term.
The Russians may consider Griner a possible participant in such a similar exchange.
The U.S. increases activity to secure Griner’s release
Last week, the State Department announced that it now considers Griner to be unfairly held, implying that the US government will be more active in attempting to gain her release even as the court process proceeds.
The change in status brings her case within the jurisdiction of the department’s Special Presidential Envoy for Hostage Affairs, which is in charge of negotiating the release of hostages and Americans illegally incarcerated.
A center founded by Bill Richardson, the former US ambassador to the UN who helped negotiate the release of other hostages and inmates, including Reed, is also working on the issue.
It’s unclear why the US administration categorized Griner as a wrongful detainee, which had been more cautious in its approach for weeks. However, under federal law, various considerations must be considered, including whether the incarceration is based on the detainee’s citizenship or if the detainee has been denied due process.
Aside from Griner, another American jailed in Russia is Paul Whelan, a corporate security officer from Michigan. Whelan was detained in December 2018 while attending a friend’s wedding and was later sentenced to 16 years in jail on espionage-related accusations that his family claims are false.