WNBA star Brittney Griner’s detention was extended six months pending the outcome of her trial scheduled to start Friday, officials announced during a hearing Monday.
The Phoenix Mercury player was seen handcuffed and escorted by guards to and from the proceeding, which had been rescheduled multiple times, according to her lawyer Alexander Boykov.
The 6-foot-9 Griner was detained by the Russian Federal Customs Service at a Moscow airport on February 17 after they allegedly found vape cartridges containing cannabis oil in her luggage.
Griner, 31, could face ten years in prison.
Russian state media reported the Russian government would release the WNBA champion in exchange for convicted arms trafficker Viktor Bout, aka the “Merchant of Death.”
Bout was arrested in Thailand in 2008 and extradited to the US, where he was sentenced to 25 years for conspiracy to kill US citizens, delivery of anti-aircraft missiles, and providing aid to a terrorist organization.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken appeared on CNN Sunday but refused to discuss any negotiations for Griner when questioned by host Jake Tapper.
“I’ve got no higher priority than making sure that Americans who are being illegally detained in one way or another around the world come home, and that includes Paul Whelan, and that includes Brittney Griner,” Blinken said. “This is an absolute priority.”
Griner’s agent tweeted that regardless of the trial, negotiations for Griner’s release should be ongoing.
“We expect @POTUS and @VP to do everything in their power, right now, to get a deal done to bring her home.”
Today’s hearing was administrative in nature and not on the merits. That said, the fact remains that the U.S. Government has determined that Brittney Griner is wrongfully detained and being used as a political pawn. [1/2]
— Lindsay Kagawa Colas (she/her) (@kagawacolas) June 27, 2022
Last month, several members of the Boston Celtics showed up for practice during the NBA Finals wearing T-shirts in support of Griner.
“It’s extremely tough seeing what she’s going through. I know everybody sees and feels that, and obviously, we’re all together in support trying to bring her back to her family and things like that. Yeah, wearing those shirts today in support of her,” said Jayson Tatum.
The WNBA named Griner an honorary starter for the WNBA All-Star Game scheduled for July 10 in Chicago.