WNBA Star Griner Appears In Russian Courtroom, Criminal Trial Date Set
Brittney Griner has been held in Russia since February.
Brittney Griner made a public appearance in a Russian courtroom Monday as officials set a date for her trial months after she was arrested for allegedly smuggling drugs through a Moscow airport.
The criminal trial was set for July 1, and the WNBA star was ordered to remain in custody for the duration of her criminal trial. The court in the Moscow suburb of Khimki extended her detention for another six months. She could face up to 10 years in prison if convicted.
Griner was seen being led into court with handcuffs. The 6-foot-9 Phoenix Mercury center was wearing glasses and a gray T-shirt as she received word about the trial date.
Griner was arrested at Sheremetyevo Airport in February after she was accused of bringing in vape cartridges containing oils derived from cannabis through security. Her arrest came a week before Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine but news of her detention did not make it out until March.
U.S. officials and the WNBA kept a low profile when it came to speaking out about Griner’s arrest. It was not until the State Department reclassified Griner as being “wrongfully detained” that her fellow basketball stars started to ramp up the pressure to get her released.
Russian media has speculated about the potential of a prisoner swap for Griner with convicted arms dealer Viktor Bout, nicknamed the “Merchant of Death.” Bout is serving a 25-year sentence after he was convicted of conspiracy to kill Americans and providing aid to a terrorist organization. Russian officials recently downplayed any chance of the trade happening.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken was asked Sunday on CNN about a potential joint swap for Griner and another held American Paul Whelan, who is serving a 16-year sentence on an espionage conviction.
“As a general proposition… I have got no higher priority than making sure that Americans who are being illegally detained in one way or another around the world come home,” Blinken said. “I can’t comment in any detail on what we’re doing, except to say this is an absolute priority.”