WNBA Brittney Griner’s detention in Moscow extended by one month

Moscow-WNBA star Brittney Griner has extended her pretrial detention in Russia by a month on Friday, lawyers said.

Alexander Boykov told The Associated Press that he believes the relatively short extension indicates that Grinner’s proceedings will soon be brought to justice. A 31-year-old American basketball player has been in custody for almost three months.

Grinner, a two-time Olympic gold medalist who plays for Phoenix Mercury, was detained at Moscow Airport in February after an arc cartridge containing cannabis-derived oil was found in his luggage. She is guilty of drug smuggling and will be sentenced to up to 10 years in prison.

Grinner wore an orange hoodie, turned face down, and attended a brief hearing in a handcuffed suburb of Moscow. She did not express her “her dissatisfaction with her detention situation,” Boykov said.

Brittney Griner
WNBA star and two-time Olympic gold medalist Brittney Griner will leave the courtroom in Khimki, a suburb of Moscow, Russia, on May 13, 2022. (Alexander Zemlianichenko / AP Photo)

The Biden administration states that Greener has been illegally detained. WNBA and US officials have been working towards her release without any visible progress.

“Today’s news about Brittney Griner was not unexpected. The WNBA will continue to work with the US government to bring BG back safely and as soon as possible,” the Basketball League said in a statement.

Hours after the extension, Mercury Star’s agent Lindsay Kagawa Chorus said on Twitter that the Greener team would “use all available options to bring Greener home quickly and safely.” I wrote that I was expecting it.

State Department spokesman Ned Price said a diplomat at the US Embassy in Moscow spoke with Grinner on Friday and reported that she was “doing as well as expected in these situations.”

Russian officials have described Grinner’s case as a criminal offense without any political affairs. However, the Moscow war in Ukraine brought US-Russian relations to the lowest level since the Cold War.

Despite tensions, Russia and the United States conducted an unexpected prisoner exchange last month. Exchanged former Marine Reed for Konstantin Yaroschenko.

The United States usually does not accept such exchanges, but some have been closed because Yaroschenko had already served a long part of the sentence.

Russians may think of Greener as someone who can understand another such exchange.

Epoch Times Photo
Phoenix Mercury’s Brittney Griner # 42 warms up before the second leg of the 2021 WNBA Playoffs Semifinals with Las Vegas Aces at the Michelob Ultra Arena in Las Vegas on September 30, 2021. (Ethan Miller / Getty Images)

The State Department said last week that it considered Greener to be illegally detained. This is a classification change that suggests that the US government will work more aggressively to secure her release, even while the proceedings are in progress.

Due to the change in status, her case will be placed under the jurisdiction of the Special Envoy for Hostage Affairs, who is in charge of negotiating the release of Americans who are deemed to have been held hostage and injustice.

Also currently working on the case is a center led by former UN ambassador Bill Richardson, who helped secure the release of several hostages, including Reed, and detainees.

It’s not entirely clear why the US government, which had been more cautious about that approach for weeks, reclassified Greener as a tort detainee. However, under federal law, there are many factors that fall into such a characterization, such as whether detention is based on being an American, or whether a detainee has been denied due process.

Besides Greener, another American who is considered unfairly detained in Russia is Paul Weeran, Michigan’s corporate security executive. Welan was arrested during a visit for his friend’s wedding in December 2018 and later sentenced to 16 years in prison for espionage-related charges that his family was fake.

Associated Press