Brittney Griner – who has been held in Russia since February on accusations of drug smuggling – will remain in Russian custody through at least July 2, after a Russian court extended her detention.
Griner, 31, has been officially classified as “wrongfully detained,” a US State Department official told CNN in May.
Supporters, including Griner’s family and the WNBA, have vigorously advocated for her release, with some expressing concerns Russia would use Griner as a political pawn amid tensions over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Griner was arrested at a Moscow airport in February, when Russian authorities claimed she had cannabis oil in her luggage and accused her of smuggling significant amounts of a narcotic substance, an offense punishable by up to 10 years in prison. The two-time Olympic gold medalist and star of the WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury plays in Russia during that league’s offseason.
Griner’s detention has been extended repeatedly. A Russian court announced in March it had extended her pretrial detention until mid-May. Last month, Griner’s detention was extended once again until June 18, TASS reported at the time.
CNN has reached out to the State Department for comment.
Griner’s case is being handled by the office of the US Special Presidential Envoy for Hostage Affairs, a State Department official confirmed to CNN last month. The office leads the government’s diplomatic efforts to secure the release of Americans wrongfully detained abroad and played a major role in securing the release of US citizen Trevor Reed in a late April prisoner swap with Russia.
News of Griner’s detention being extended comes a day after State Department officials – including those from the hostage affairs office – briefed her teammates on Griner’s situation and efforts to bring her home.
“We are on Day 116 since BG has been wrongfully detained,” Mercury head coach Vanessa Nygaard said, adding, “She’s our teammate, she’s an American and we want her back home.”
This is terrible news.