WNBA star Brittney Griner appeared briefly during a closed-door preliminary hearing in Russia on Monday, with the Russian court scheduling Griner’s trial to start Friday, according to her lawyer. The court also ruled Griner’s detention be extended six months pending its outcome. The Olympic gold medal-winning basketball player and WNBA champion appeared in the Russian court in suburban Moscow in handcuffs and left without comment. Griner could face 10 years in prison if convicted on charges of large-scale transportation of drugs.
Russian authorities took Griner, 31, into custody at Sheremetyevo International Airport in Russia on Feb. 17, just days before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Griner plays for the Phoenix Mercury in the U.S., and plays in Russia during the WNBA’s offseason Russian authorities claimed Griner had cannabis oil in her luggage and accused her of smuggling significant amounts of a narcotic substance, an offense punishable by up to 10 years in prison.
The U.S. State Department has since ruled that Griner is being “wrongfully detained,” a designation that allows it to advocate more forcefully on her behalf. The State Department said last month it is continuing its efforts on Griner’s behalf and other Americans detained in Russia. Jalina Porter, principal deputy spokesperson with the State Department, said about Griner and other Americans detained by Russia: “What we’ve said and will continue to say from here is that we have no other priority than the safety and security of the United States citizens who are overseas, and we continue to insist that the government of Russia allow for consistent and timely consular access to all U.S. citizens — U.S. citizen detainees in Russia, including those in pretrial detention — in compliance with its obligations under the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations and bilateral consular convention with the United States. Our requests for access are consistently delayed or denied, and we will continue to press for fair and transparent treatment for all U.S. citizen detainees in Russia.”
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