Brittney Griner appeared on Friday for a hearing in a Russian courtroom and had her detention extended by a month, the WNBA star’s Russian attorney
Photos taken at the hearing show Griner exiting a handcuffed courtroom outside Moscow, wearing an orange sweatshirt with the hood pulled over his head.
The hearing was previously set for May 19, when Griner’s pre-trial detention was due to end, but the date was brought forward. The result came as no great surprise, as Russian officials are expected to proceed with the court case while behind-the-scenes negotiations with the US over Griner’s release continue.
A State Department spokesman told Yahoo Sports last week, “A significant development that indicates the Biden administration will work more aggressively to secure their freedom. Oversight of her case has been shifted to the Office of the President’s Special Envoy for Hostage Affairs, which focuses on negotiations for the release of American hostages and others believed to be wrongfully held abroad.
Griner has been behind bars since February 17, when she flew into a Moscow airport and . She is under investigation for large-scale drug trafficking and faces up to 10 years in a Russian prison if convicted.
The fact that no trial date has yet been set suggests to some experts that Russian officials are deliberately dragging out the process. The pre-trial investigation in a case like Griner’s should be relatively easy. The only witnesses appear to be Griner and the airport border guards, who allegedly found the drugs. The main evidence is the hash oil allegedly obtained at the checkpoint.
“I expect they’re going to drag out the process as much as they can,” William Pomeranz, a professor of Russian law and acting director of the Kennan Institute, told Yahoo Sports last month. “I think Brittney is essentially and unfortunately in a hostage situation. In this position, Russia has previously proposed various prisoner exchanges for Russian citizens convicted of illegal arms or drug sales. I’m sure the Russians would be happy to trade Brittney for one of them at some point.”