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WNBA star Brittney Griner’s detention in Russia extended by month

WNBA star Brittney Griner’s detention in Russia extended by month

Lawyer for the Phoenix Mercury center expects cannabis case will be tried soon as the extension is relatively short

The lawyer for American basketball star Brittney Griner said on Friday that her pre-trial detention in Russia has been extended by one month.

Griner’s lawyer, Alexander Boikov, told the Associated Press he believed the relatively short extension of the detention indicated the case would come to trial soon.

Griner, one of the WNBA league’s biggest stars, has been detained in Russia since arriving at a Moscow airport in mid-February.

Russian authorities said a search of her luggage revealed vape cartridges that allegedly contained cannabis oil, which could carry a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison.

She had arrived in Russia to play professional basketball in the WNBA off-season.

A US embassy consular officer attended Friday’s hearing and spoke to Griner, the state department spokesperson, Ned Price, said.

“The officer was able to confirm that Brittney Griner is doing as well as can be expected under what can only be described as exceedingly difficult circumstances,” Price said.

Images of the athlete showed her at the courthouse with bowed head, her face shielded by her long hair, and wearing an orange hoodie. She had her wrists handcuffed in front of her.

Washington and Moscow have kept diplomatic channels open since Russia’s 24 February invasion of Ukraine, despite the dire state of bilateral relations.

“I want to take a moment to reiterate the WNBA’s support for Phoenix Mercury star Brittney Griner,” the WNBA commissioner, Cathy Engelbert, said last month.

She added: “Please know that getting her home safely continues to be our top priority and while we are facing an extraordinarily complex challenge, there is strength in community, especially the WNBA.”

The US and Russia agreed a prisoner swap last month that saw the US marine veteran Trevor Reed freed from prison in Russia, where he had been serving a nine-year sentence on assault charges.

He was exchanged for Konstantin Yaroshenko, a Russian pilot who had been serving a 20-year sentence in the United States after being convicted of drug trafficking.

Russia continues to hold Paul Whelan, another US marine veteran who was sentenced to 16 years in prison for espionage in 2020.

The Biden administration says Griner, 31, is being wrongfully detained. The WNBA and US officials have worked toward her release, without visible progress.

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