A court in Russia on Monday set Friday as the start date of WNBA star Brittney Griner’s trial on allegations that she attempted to smuggle drugs into the country, according to multiple reports.
Griner, 31, has been held in Russia since her arrest on charges of large-scale transportation of drugs, a crime that carries a sentence of 10 years in prison, according to The Associated Press. Officials at an airport in the Moscow area allegedly found cannabis vape cartridges in her luggage, prompting her arrest on Feb. 17, NPR reported.
On Monday, Griner’s lawyer told CNN that a court ruled to extend the Phoenix Mercury center’s detention by six months pending the outcome of her trial. Authorities had earlier ordered her held until at least July 2.
The State Department in May classified Griner as having been wrongfully detained by Russia. Her arrest came one week before Russia sent troops into Ukraine, sparking concerns that the move might have been aimed at giving Russia leverage over the U.S., according to NPR.
The Special Presidential Envoy for Hostage Affairs is overseeing the case and tasked with bringing Griner home. Officials have declined to specify what such an effort might entail, though reports have indicated that officials might be considering a prisoner swap where Griner and former U.S. Marine Paul Whelan would be exchanged for convicted Russian arms trafficker Viktor Bout, according to CNN and the AP.
On Sunday, Secretary Antony Blinken reiterated the State Department’s commitment to freeing Griner and Whelan in an interview with CNN, though he declined to discuss specifics about the cases.
“I can’t comment in any detail on what we’re doing except to say this is an absolute priority,” he said.
Last week, officials named Griner as an honorary WNBA All-Star and starter. The two-time Olympic gold medalist has been named a WNBA All-Star seven times before.
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