WNBA star Brittney Griner's detention in Russia extended by one month

US says basketball star is being 'wrongfully detained' by Moscow

WNBA star and two-time Olympic gold medallist Brittney Griner leaves a courtroom after a hearing in Khimki outside Moscow, Russia. AP
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US basketball star Brittney Griner's pre-trial detention in Russia has been extended by one month, a number of media outlets have reported.

Griner appeared for a brief hearing in handcuffs, her hair covered in a red hoodie and her head held low.

Alexander Boikov, Griner's lawyer, told The Associated Press he believes the short extension indicates a trial could come soon. She had been expected to appear in court on May 19.

“We did not receive any complaints about the detention conditions from our client,” Mr Boikov said, however ESPN reported that a request that Griner be detained under house arrest had been submitted and subsequently rejected.

The two-time Olympic gold medallist was arrested at a Moscow airport in February after Russian authorities reportedly discovered several cannabis oil vape cartridges in her baggage.

If convicted of drug possession, Griner could face up to 10 years in prison.

The US State Department this month said that the “Russian Federation has wrongfully detained” Griner. Describing her detention as “wrongful” suggests the US will be more aggressive in attempting to secure Griner's release.

Despite strained relations between Russia and the US due to the war in Ukraine, Moscow said Griner's detention is not politically motivated.

“Today’s news on Brittney Griner was not unexpected and the WNBA continues to work with the US government to get BG home safely and as soon as possible,” the basketball league said in a statement.

State Department spokesman Ned Price said diplomats from the US embassy in Moscow had spoken with Griner on Friday and reported she “is doing as well as can be expected in these circumstances”.

Roger Carstens, US special presidential envoy for hostage affairs, is leading the team to secure Griner's release. Former ambassador to the UN Bill Richardson, who worked to secure the release of former US marine Trevor Reed, also agreed to join Griner's team.

The US government had previously focused on ensuring Griner had access to American consular affairs officials while in jail.

Under US federal law, there are a number of factors that go into reclassifying an American as being wrongfully detained, including the detention being based on possessing US citizenship or if the detainee has been denied due process.

The Associated Press contributed to this report

Updated: May 13, 2022, 4:57 PM