A Russian court has extended the imprisonment of American WNBA star and Olympic athlete Brittney Griner until at least July 2, according to the Russian state-run news agency TASS on Tuesday. Griner has been detained in Russia since February after officials allegedly discovered vape cartridges containing cannabis oil in her luggage.
TASS reported that the Khimki Court of the Moscow Region extended Griner’s detention on drug smuggling charges, asserting that the WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury player was “trying to illegally import hash oil into the Russian Federation through Sheremetyevo Airport.”
“The court granted the request of the investigation and extended the detention period for US citizen Greiner [sic] for 18 days, until July 2,” a court representative said. If convicted, the two-time Olympic gold medalist faces up to 10 years in prison.
Russia’s decision to extend Griner’s detention comes just one day after the U.S. State Department updated Griner’s teammates on efforts to bring her home.
“We are on Day 116 since BG has been wrongfully detained,” Head coach Vanessa Nygaard said, adding, “She’s our teammate, she’s an American and we want her back home.”
The State Department said Griner was “wrongfully detained” last month and announced that the US Special Presidential Envoy for Hostage Affairs (SPEHA) Roger Carstens was handling her case.
“When it comes to our efforts to free Americans, the Special Presidential Envoy for Hostage Affairs Ambassador Carstens, he will go anywhere, he will talk to anyone if it means that we’re able to come home with an American, to reunite that American with her or his family,” State Department spokesperson Ned Price said at the time, as reported by CNN.
Griner’s teammates said the State Department’s efforts to rescue Griner gives them hope.
“It’s something that we’ve all talked about intimately as a group, and now knowing the State Department at the highest level — from US President Joe Biden to the team that is working on bringing back all Americans who are wrongfully detained — gives us a lot of confidence that they’re working on it,” Taurasi said, according to CNN.
U.S. Marine Corps veteran Trevor Reed, who was finally released in April after being held in a Russian jail since 2019, called on the Biden administration to do more for Griner, who he warned is likely “in a worse position” in a Russian prison because of her race, Axios reported.
“They also have a government that systematically discriminates against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transexual people under Vladimir Putin. And those things are obviously going to make Brittney’s time there a lot more difficult than if they just had taken another American hostage,” he said of the WNBA star, who has publicly identified as a lesbian.
Reed also warned that “there is no justice” in Russia, asserting that both Griner and her fellow American detained in Russia Paul Whelan – another Marine veteran who was sentenced to 16 years in 2020 for allegedly spying in Russia – will not receive a fair trial or investigation.
“They will be there as hostages until the United States gets them out,” Reed said. “You have to tell [lawmakers] that you want them brought home at any cost. You don’t care what that cost is. You want to get your Americans home. You want to get Brittney home. You want to get Paul home.”