MOSCOW – Brittney Griner appeared briefly in public Monday, and came close to a Russian drug trial. In a brief court case, the judge ordered that Griner be detained for a longer period of time, “Griner’s legal team told NPR.
The next hearing is scheduled for Friday, July 1, says Griner’s lawyer, Alexander Boikov. The trial will officially begin on that day, but will begin with technical issues such as reading the case book and reviewing the case files, he added.
The news came from the first closed courtroom court – but reporters received a rare glimpse of the Griner as the WNBA center passes through the hallway.
The Phoenix Mercury star and the United States Olympic team were arrested by four police officers and a dog as they were taken down the stairs to court for Monday’s trial – a repeat of less than an hour later, as Griner was returned to custody. .
Griner, who was handcuffed, did not answer reporters’ questions. At one point he just shook his head and kept walking.
Griner has been detained for 130 days
Griner, 31, has now been detained in Russia for 130 days – a tragedy that began a week before Russia invaded Ukraine. His detention was extended several times, and his application for home arrest was denied.
No U.S. embassy officials were present for Monday’s hearing. A U.S. Embassy representative told the NPR that they had been informed that the session was “a closed management meeting” and that embassy staff would not be allowed to attend.
“It was a technical case involving the extension of the detention period,” Boikov said of the session. “Not more than that.”
The U.S. ambassador says U.S. officials plan to attend the official trial when the trial is finally set to begin.
Griner was arrested in Feb. 17, after authorities at an airport in the Moscow region allegedly found cannabis vape cartridges in his luggage – creating a criminal case for drug trafficking in Russia. He could face up to 10 years in prison if convicted.
Why is Griner detained?
Aside from the negative framework, few details are known about his case, which suggests that Putin’s regime bound Griner to use him as a source.
Among the conditions discussed, a possible deal will see Griner trade with Russia bound in the U.S. – well-known arms dealer Viktor Bout, also known as the “Death Dealer.”
Russia’s official Tass media reported on the Bout-for-Griner exchange, saying an official source confirmed that such talks were possible.
Like many WNBA players, Griner plays in overseas leagues during the idle season of the U.S. league, earning more than his WNBA salary. In recent years, he has played for UMMC Ekaterinburg, a Russian club led by oligarch Iskander Makhmudov. The group had a long-standing relationship with Griner’s U.S. team.
What the U.S. is doing to release Griner?
Griner’s plight has raised a number of concerns in the US – including concerns that announcing his case and issuing calls for his release could make him as important in Russia as the pawn. A number of human rights organizations, including the Human Rights Campaign, the National Women’s League and the National LGBTQ Task Force, have recently written a letter to President Biden urging him to address the issue immediately.
Biden is under pressure to help release WNBA star Brittney Griner from Russian prison
In early May, Biden officials announced that Griner had been unjustly detained by the Russian government, indicating that the US would be aggressive in demanding its independence and return home.
He was arrested as a hostage, the US said. The State Department said “The Presidential Special Enforcement Agency will lead an interagency team to secure the release of Brittney Griner.”