The day after members of Brittney Griner’s WNBA team met with State Department officials to discuss what the U.S. government has called her “wrongful detainment” in Russia, a Moscow court extended her pretrial detention at least another 18 days, according to multiple reports. This would leave her in custody until July 2.
The extension came at “the request of the investigation,” a representative from the Khimki Court of the Moscow Region is quoted as saying by ABC News, which cited Tass, the Russian state media outlet.
State Department spokesman Ned Price on Tuesday acknowledged the Tass report, saying: “I’ve seen the reports emanate from Russia that her detention has been extended. Our position for some time on this has been very clear: Brittney Griner should not be detained.”
Griner was detained Feb. 17, one week before Russia invaded Ukraine, at an airport near Moscow after authorities said they discovered vape cartridges containing hashish oil — which in Russia can carry a prison sentence of up to 10 years — in a search of her bag. Griner, a two-time U.S. Olympic gold medalist and a seven-time all-star with the Phoenix Mercury, plays for UMMC Ekaterinburg in Russia during the WNBA offseason.
Efforts to secure her freedom were initially conducted quietly but have become more vocal and visible as her detention has stretched into months. In May, the State Department reclassified her case, saying she has been wrongfully detained and transferring oversight of the case to the State Department’s Special Presidential Envoy for Hostage Affairs.
Lindsay Kagawa Colas, Griner’s agent, tweeted Tuesday night that the extension of her detention is “further reinforcement that Brittney Griner — an Olympian and an American citizen — is being used as a political pawn. Her detention is inhumane and unacceptable. She has not had a single phone call in her 117 days of wrongful detention, and we call on [President Biden] and [Vice President Harris] to act with urgency and do whatever it takes to bring Brittney home immediately. We must fight for BG like family because as an American, she is all of ours. #WeAreBG.”
She urged people to sign a Change.org petition demanding Griner’s “swift and safe return to the U.S.”
Griner’s wife Cherelle last month told “Good Morning America” that she hoped President Biden would take action, saying, “If they’re holding her because they want you to do something, then I want you to do it.” The WNBA sought to raise the profile of her case as well by placing her initials and No. 42 on its courts when its season began in early May. In early June, members of the Boston Celtics wore “We Are BG” T-shirts to practice as they prepared for the NBA Finals.
In an hour-long meeting Monday, U.S. officials who specialize in hostage negotiations and wrongfully detained Americans encouraged Mercury players, coaches and staff members and Women’s National Basketball Players Association members to “keep speaking her name, to keep holding them accountable,” the Mercury’s Brianna Turner said in a statement on the team’s Twitter account.
“We’re here to do whatever we can to amplify and keep BG at the forefront, which is more important than any basketball game and anything else that’s going on in our lives,” star player Diana Taurasi said in a statement posted on Twitter by the Mercury after the meeting. “We want BG to come home as soon as possible; it’s number one on our list.”
The Mercury is in Washington this week for two games against the Mystics.
“They were able to share some more details about her detainment and her circumstances,” Mercury Coach Vanessa Nygaard said. “That was really helpful for us, and then also just to understand the processes a little bit more and how her change of status affected things. So I think it overall was a really, really good meeting for our team, and we felt really positive after and I was really grateful for those people making that time.”
Griner’s pretrial detention was also extended last month and, at that time, Price said she was “doing as well as can be expected under what can only be described as exceedingly difficult circumstances.”
PJ Morales contributed to this report, which has been updated.
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