Court date set for US basketball star detained in Russia – lawyer


Brittney Griner will be brought before a judge on Monday, according to lawyers

Detained WNBA basketball star Brittney Griner will be brought before a judge on Monday for a preliminary hearing in Moscow, according to her lawyer.

Griner has been in Russian custody since February 17 when vape cartridges containing hashish oil were found in her luggage at an airport just outside the capital. 

Russian prosecutors granted another extension to her case on June 14 until July 2, as reported by local media agency TASS. That came after the US Department of State claimed last month that Griner was being ‘wrongfully detained’. 

US officials and sources close to Griner’s camp have said that they expect the Russian authorities to keep extending the two-time Olympic gold medalist’s detention until a deal has been reached for her release.

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Brittney Griner is being held in Russia on drugs charges. © Tim Clayton / Corbis via Getty Images
Detained basketball star should face law like anyone else, Kremlin says

Before that possible outcome, however, Griner will have a preliminary hearing on Monday morning, as claimed by her lawyer Alexander Boikov to ABC News in the US.

The day before Griner’s detention was extended, State Department officials met with the 31-year-old’s Phoenix Mercury teammates. 

“There is a lot involved in getting her back home and safe; they’re working relentlessly,” said Griner’s colleague Diana Taurasi in a statement the team released.

Last week, a phone call between Griner and her wife Cherelle had to be rescheduled after an attempt to connect the couple on their anniversary failed due to a “logistical error”.

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Cherelle Griner has appealed to US president Joe Biden to intervene and grant her wife’s release, but recently said to the Associated Press that she maintains “zero trust” in her country’s government to handle Brittney Griner’s detention effectively after the embarrassing call mix-up.

“If I can’t trust you to catch a Saturday call outside of business hours, how can I trust you to actually be negotiating on my wife’s behalf to come home?” she questioned, saying this was a “much bigger ask” than the failed telephone call.

Speaking to ABC News, a State Department spokesperson said it “deeply” regretted that Griner was not able to talk to her wife and claimed that it has “no higher priority than the safety and security of US citizens overseas”.

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Brittney Griner was detained in Moscow on drugs charges. © Tim Clayton / Corbis via Getty Images
US promises to rectify embarrassing blunder with detained Griner

If convicted, Griner faces up to 10 years behind bars in Russia.

In Russia, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov has insisted that Griner is not a political pawn and shouldn’t expect special treatment either. 

“We cannot call her a hostage. She violated Russian law, and now she’s being prosecuted, it’s not about being a hostage,” Peskov said. 

“There are lots of American citizens here [in Russia]. They’re enjoying their freedoms… but you have to obey the laws,” stressed President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman to MSNBC.

Griner had arrived in Russia to play for women’s team UMMC Ekaterinburg, something she had done during the WNBA offseason since 2014.    

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