MOSCOW — The lawyer for WNBA star Brittney Griner said Friday her pre-trial detention in Russia has been extended by one month.
Alexander Boykov said to The Associated Press he thought the brief extension of detention was a sign that the case would be tried soon. The detention of her has lasted for almost three months.
The brief hearing was short and she appeared handcuffed with her hands in her pockets, her hair covered in red hoodie, and her head held high.
Boykov said “We did not receive any complaints about the detention conditions from our client.”
Griner was a double Olympic gold medalist. She was arrested at Moscow’s airport when vape cartridges that contained oil extracted from cannabis were found in her bag. This could lead to a maximum sentence of 10 years imprisonment.
Griner, 31 years old, is being unlawfully detained by the Biden administration. Despite visible progress, the WNBA officials and U.S. officials worked for Griner’s release.
The Russians have described Griner’s case as a criminal offense without making any political associations.
But it comes amid Moscow’s war in Ukraine that has brought U.S.-Russian 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 ex-marine Trevor Reed for Konstantin Yaroshenko, a Russian pilot serving a 20-year federal sentence for conspiring to smuggle cocaine into the U.S. Although the U.S. doesn’t usually accept such swaps, Yaroshenko has already completed a large portion of his sentence.
Griner could be considered by the Russians to be a possible part of another exchange.
According to the State Department, Griner has been deemed wrongfully held. The change in classification suggests that the U.S. government is going to be more proactive in securing Griner’s release while the legal proceedings are ongoing. The status change places her case under the purview of the department’s Special Presidential Envoy for Hostage Affairs, which is responsible for negotiating for the release of hostages and Americans considered wrongfully detained.
A center headed by Bill Richardson (ex-ambassador to the United Nations) is also working on this case. He helped release multiple hostages, detainees and including Reed.
It’s not entirely clear why the U.S. government, which for weeks had been more circumspect in its approach, reclassified Griner as a wrongful detainee. Under federal law, however, there are many factors that can influence such a classification. These include whether the detention was based upon Griner’s American status or whether the detainee is denied due process.
U.S. State Dept. Ned Price, a spokesperson for the U.S. State Dept. confirmed that U.S. John Sullivan, Ambassador to Russia met with Russian counterparts. He would not comment on Griner or say if they had discussed it.
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