WNBA star Brittney Griner, who has been in Russian custody for over four months after being arrested for cannabis possession, is due in court on July 1 for her trial, reports CBS News. She was also ordered to remain in custody for the duration of her criminal trial.
After she appeared for a preliminary hearing that was held behind closed doors, the court in the Moscow suburb of Khimki extended Griner’s detention for another six months. Previously, she was ordered to remain in custody until July 2.
Russian news outlets have speculated that Griner could be swapped for Russian arms trader Viktor Bout, nicknamed “The Merchant of Death,” who is currently serving a 25-year sentence on conviction of conspiracy to kill U.S. citizens and providing aid to a terrorist organization
When asked if a swap was being considered, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, said, “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. But I can’t comment in any detail on what we’re doing, except to say this is an absolute priority.”
“That includes Paul Whelan, that includes Brittney Griner, that includes people in a number of other countries,” he added. Whelan is a U.S .citizen who was detained in Moscow in 2018 and arrested on espionage charges. He has denied the charges.
According to Russian law, Griner must first be convicted and sentenced, then apply for a presidential pardon, before a swap can take place, Maria Yarmush told the Kremlin-backed TV channel RT.
On Friday, the U.S. House approved a bipartisan resolution calling for Griner’s release.
The resolution, introduced by Arizona Rep. Greg Stanton, calls on Russia to immediately release Griner and asks U.S. officials to “raise the case” of her release when communicating with Russia.
Over 40 organizations, which include the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, Human Rights Campaign, GLAAD, the National Urban League and the Women’s National Basketball Players Association have signed a letter addressed to President Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris addressing the Phoenix Mercury star’s ongoing detainment.
In May, the U.S. State Department classified Griner as “wrongfully detained,
If convicted, Griner faces a prison sentence of up to 10 years.