WNBA star Brittney Griner was seen for the first time in months while appearing in a Russian court on Monday.
AFP photographer Kirill Kudryavtsev captured the Phoenix Mercury player’s frazzled state as she appeared in court handcuffed and flanked by guards in black vests. CNN reports that the Russian court ruled that Griner’s trial will begin on Friday, July 1, and her detention will be extended for six months.
Griner, who plays in Russia during the WNBA’s offseason, has been in Russian custody since February, when she was arrested at a Moscow airport on allegations of attempted drug smuggling. Griner was carrying vape cartridges that held cannabis oil.
She’s accused of smuggling significant amounts of cannabis and could face up to 10 years in prison if found guilty. However, the U.S. State Department has classified Griner as “wrongfully detained,” and many are supporting her wife, Cherelle Griner, in urging President Joe Biden to work out a deal to get her released and returned to the States.
Amid Russia’s war with Ukraine, Americans are concerned that Griner is being used as a political pawn given the rising tension against the country. Griner has had her detention extended several times over what many believe is a minor offense.
The details around her arrest remain scarce, which leads many to believe Russian President Vladimir Putin could be keeping her detained as leverage.
Griner’s lawyer, Alexander Boikov, anticipates formal hearings “should happen in a week or two,” NPR reports. The hearing was closed to the public, but journalists were able to capture a glimpse of Griner as she was escorted to the courtroom.
And 40 min later the preliminary hearing is over. No comment from Griner. Her Russian lawyer says the judge extended her detention for the length of her trial. No date set. Curiously, no US embassy officials present for the hearing. #BrittneyGriner pic.twitter.com/FSYprXjSgs
— Charles Maynes (@cwmiii3) June 27, 2022
Griner has been in detention since Feb. 17, one week before Russia invaded Ukraine. Her requests for home detention have been denied, and her detention continues to get extended.
No U.S. Embassy members were present for the hearing, but the organization says American officials will attend the formal trial when hearings finally begin on Friday.