Russian court says Brittney Griner’s trial will begin Friday
By Ivan Nechepurenko
A Russian court said the trial for U.S. basketball star Brittney Griner will begin Friday and she will remain in custody until it ends, her attorney, Alexander Boikov, said Monday.
Griner appeared in the Khimki city court near Moscow for a preliminary hearing. She did not speak after her court appearance, according to a video from outside the courtroom that was posted by the official state news agency TASS.
The WNBA star, who had played for a Russian team during the offseason, was detained in a Moscow airport Feb. 17, ensnaring a U.S. citizen’s fate in the confrontation between Russia and the west over Ukraine.
Russian officials said they had found vape cartridges bearing traces of hash oil in Griner’s luggage when she passed through a security checkpoint. The drug charges levied against her carry a sentence of up to 10 years in a penal colony.
Boikov said he expected the trial to take up to two months, depending on the court’s workload. He also said Griner feels well and has no complaints about her treatment in the pretrial detention center.
“It is hot in Moscow, so she feels that too, especially while being transported to the court,” Boikov said in a phone interview.
Griner, a seven-time WNBA All-Star center for the Phoenix Mercury and a key figure in two champion Olympic teams, was detained a week before the invasion of Ukraine, but Russian officials did not reveal her arrest until after the war began.
Word of her arrest came when Russia-U.S. relations were hitting one low point after another, and her detention raised fears that she could become a bargaining chip, perhaps to be exchanged for high-profile Russians in U.S. custody. In recent years, U.S. officials have accused Russia of detaining and sentencing American citizens on trumped-up charges.
Last week, dozens of organizations representing people of color, women and LGBTQ voters called on President Joe Biden to strike a deal for her release.
Dmitry Peskov, the Kremlin’s spokesperson, said in an interview with MSNBC this month that Griner was not being held hostage and was being held accountable for violating Russian law.