WNBA star Brittney Griner appeared in a preliminary hearing in Russia and had her detention extended for another six months on Monday. A court date was also set for her criminal trial, which will begin on Friday, and she must remain in custody for the duration of the trial.
The Phoenix Mercury star has now been detained in Russia for over fourth months after she was arrested at a Moscow airport for alleged possession of cannabis. Griner faces up to 10 years in prison if convicted on charges of large-scale transportation of drugs.
The United States State Department reclassified Brittney Griner as wrongfully detained back in May, which brought more attention to her situation. She has plenty of supporters back home in the U.S. who have spoken up and advocated for her release.
Some suggest a possible prisoner exchange. Speculation in Russia centers around a possible exchange for arms trader Viktor Bout, who’s known as “The Merchant of Death.” Bout is serving a 25-year sentence for conspiracy to kill U.S. citizens and providing aid to a terrorist organization, which is obviously a much more serious crime than Griner’s alleged wrongdoing. She was allegedly found with vape cartridges containing cannabis oil.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken was asked about a possible prisoner swap involving Brittney Griner and Paul Whelan (serving a 16-year espionage sentence) for Bout on Sunday, but he dodged the question (via AP):
“As a general proposition … I have got no higher priority than making sure that Americans who are being illegally detained in one way or another around the world come home,” he said. But “I can’t comment in any detail on what we’re doing, except to say this is an absolute priority.”
With a criminal trial date now set, this Brittney Griner case takes another step forward. We now must wait and see how this trial plays out.