Detention of WNBA’s Griner in Moscow extended by 1 month

MOSCOW (AP) — WNBA star Brittney Griner’s lawyer said Friday that her pre-trial detention in Russia has been extended by one month.

Alexander Boykov told The Associated Press that he believed the relatively short extension of the detention indicated that the case would soon go to trial. She has been incarcerated for almost three months now.

She appeared for the brief hearing handcuffed, her dreadlocks covered with a red hoodie and her face held low.

Boykov said: “We have not received any complaints about our client’s conditions of detention.”

Griner, a two-time Olympic gold medalist, was detained at a Moscow airport after allegedly finding vaping cartridges containing cannabis oil in her luggage, carrying a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison.

The Biden administration says 31-year-old Griner is being wrongly detained. The WNBA and US officials have been working towards her release, with no visible progress.

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 sent US-Soviet relations to their lowest level since the Cold War.

Despite the tension, Russia and the United States conducted an unexpected prisoner exchange last month — swapping ex-Marine Trevor Reed for Konstantin Yaroshenko, a Russian pilot serving a 20-year federal prison sentence for conspiracy to smuggle cocaine into the U.S. . not typically embracing such exchanges, it made the deal in part because Yaroshenko had already served a long portion of his jail term.

The Russians may consider Griner a possible part of another such exchange.

The State Department said last week it now considers Griner wrongfully detained, a change in classification that suggests the US government will be more active in seeking her release even while the trial is underway. The change of status places her case under the remit of the Special Presidential Envoy of the Hostage Affairs Division, who is responsible for negotiating the release of hostages and Americans held as unlawful.

The case is also now being worked on by a center headed by Bill Richardson, the former US ambassador to the United Nations who helped release several hostages and detainees, including Reed.

It’s not entirely clear why the US government, which had been more cautious in its approach for weeks, reclassified Griner as a wrongful detainee. But under federal law, there are a number of factors that come into play in such a characterization, such as whether the detention is based on the fact that he is an American or whether the detainee has been denied a fair trial.

US State Department spokesman Ned Price confirmed that US Ambassador John Sullivan met with Russian colleagues, but declined to say whether Griner was discussed or further discussing her case.

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