The lawyer for Brittney Griner announced Friday (May 13) that the WNBA star’s pretrial detention in Russia has been extended for one month.
Brittney Griner–who has been in detention for nearly three months– appeared for the brief hearing handcuffed and wearing an orange sweatshirt with the hood pulled over her head. Reportedly, the hearing had previously been scheduled for May 19 which is when Griner’s pre-trial detention period was set to end, but the date was moved up. Griner’s lawyer, Alexander Boykov told sources he believed the short extension of the detention indicated the case would soon come to trial.
According to reports, the Russian state news agency TASS published a story saying there were negotiations between the U.S. and Russia to exchange Brittney Griner for a Russian man being held in the United States for financing terrorism. American government officials are reportedly skeptical about the reporting, saying it was likely a tactic to pressure the U.S. government.
Dani Gilbert, an assistant professor of military and strategic studies at the U.S. Air Force Academy and an expert in state-sponsored hostage taking had this to say about the detention hearing being extended:
“Timing is one of the most important factors I look for; it’s one of the clearest ways we can glean intentions in a negotiation. The fact that they would make that statement at the same time doesn’t seem like coincidence. It’s consistent with how these negotiations have typically gone..”
“Today’s news is a sobering reminder that international detention cases are long, winding, frustrating ordeals – rarely straightforward. We honestly don’t know if this is good or bad news. It could mean buying time to work out a swift deal for her release, or it could mean more complications put on the table.”
As previously reported, Brittney Griner has been behind bars since Feb. 17 when she flew into a Moscow airport and Russian customs officials allegedly found vape cartridges containing cannabis oil. She is under investigation for the large-scale transportation of drugs and faces up to 10 years in a Russian prison if convicted.
According to legal experts, the fact that a trial date has not yet been set suggests that Russian officials are purposely delaying the process. The pre-trial investigation in a case like Brittney Griner’s should be relatively simple. The only witnesses appear to be Griner and the airport border guards who allegedly found the drugs. Sources say, the primary evidence is the hashish oil allegedly obtained at the checkpoint.
Earlier this month, it was announced that the U.S. government determined the two-time Olympic gold medalist is being wrongfully detained by the Russian government, which caused a significant shift in how U.S. officials will try to get her home. Sources claimed the United States will aggressively work to secure her release.
The Russians have reportedly described Brittney Griner’s case as a criminal offense without making any political associations. However, it comes amid Russia’s war in Ukraine that has reportedly brought U.S. and Russian relations to the lowest level since the Cold War.
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