A Russian court scheduled Brittney Griner’s trial to begin on Friday, according to her attorney, and ruled that the WNBA star’s detention would be extended by six months pending its outcome.
Griner – who has been detained in Russia since being arrested at a Moscow airport for attempted drug smuggling – attended the preliminary hearing in person on Monday, arriving in court handcuffed and flanked by guards in black vests, according to a photo by the photographer from AFP Kirill Kudryavstev. She wore a gray T-shirt and glasses, as shown in the photo.
Boykov previously told CNN the hearing would be held behind closed doors at the Khimki court, just outside Moscow.
Griner, 31, a Phoenix Mercury player who plays in Russia during the WNBA offseason, was arrested Feb. 17. Russian authorities claimed she had cannabis oil in her luggage and charged her with smuggling large amounts of a narcotic substance, an offense punishable by up to 10 years in prison .
The US State Department, however, classified Griner as “wrongfully detained,” a department official told CNN in May.
Griner’s detention, which has been repeatedly extended, has sparked an outpouring of support from dozens of organizations across the United States who have joined Brittney Griner’s wife Cherelle Griner in urging President Joe Biden to make a swap deal with the Russian authorities to free Griner and bring her home safely as soon as possible.
Griner supporters have expressed concern that she could be used as a political pawn, given rising tensions amid Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
READ: Dozens of organizations sign letter calling on President Biden to reach deal for Brittney Griner’s release
More than 40 organizations — including the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, Human Rights Campaign, GLAAD, the National Urban League and the Women’s National Basketball Players Association — have signed a letter addressed to President Biden and Vice-President Biden. President Kamala Harris.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke with Cherelle Griner one-on-one last Wednesday, according to a senior State Department official. She said last week that she had not spoken to his wife since February 17.
“I have no higher priority than making sure Americans who are illegally detained in one way or another around the world get home,” Sec. Blinken told CNN the “state of the Union” at the Group of 7 summit on Sunday.
“That includes Paul Whelan, that includes Brittney Griner, that includes people in a number of other countries,” he added. Whelan is an American citizen who was detained in Moscow in 2018 and arrested for espionage. He denied the charges.
“I can’t comment in detail on what we’re doing except to say it’s a top priority,” Blinken said.
The U.S. Embassy in Moscow will send a U.S. diplomat to Brittney Griner’s hearing on Friday, a U.S. official told CNN.
A State Department spokesperson reiterated that the Griner was “wrongfully owned” and said support for her and her family would continue. “The U.S. government will continue to provide appropriate support to Ms. Griner and her family. We will continue to press for his release.
Griner was named an honorary WNBA All-Star Game starter last week, with the All-Star Game set to take place July 10 in Chicago.