Brittney Griner: Russia extends WNBA star's detention again

By Holly Honderich
BBC News, Washington

  • Published
Image source, Getty Images
Image caption,
As the WNBA season continues without her, fans and players alike have pushed for her safe return

US basketball star Brittney Griner's detention in Russia has been extended again, Russian state media report.

The Women's National Basketball Association (WNBA) player will remain in detention until at least 2 July, reports Tass.

The Phoenix Mercury star was detained on 17 February at a Moscow-area airport after cannabis oil was allegedly found in her luggage.

Ms Griner, 31, could face 10 years in prison if convicted on drug charges.

On Tuesday, her detention was extended for an additional 18 days at "the request of the investigation", according to a representative from the Khimki Court of the Moscow Region, reports Tass.

A Russian court previously extended her time in custody until 19 May and then again until mid-June, according to the BBC's US partner CBS News.

Representatives for Ms Griner did not respond to requests for comment but her agent, Lindsay Colas, wrote on Twitter that the extension was "further reinforcement that Brittney Griner - an Olympian and an American citizen - is being used as a political pawn".

"Her detention is inhumane and unacceptable."

According to Ms Colas, the WNBA star has not had a single phone call in her nearly four months of detention.

A US representative last met with Ms Griner on 19 May, the State Department said, and reported she was doing "as well as can be expected".

State department spokesman Ned Price said on Tuesday that Ms Griner "should not be detained for a single day longer".

"Our position for some time on this has been very clear: Brittney Griner should not be detained," Mr Price said in response to questions about her case.

Last month, nearly 100 days after she was held, the state department designated Ms Griner as "wrongfully detained".

State department officials, including a representative from a hostage affairs unit, met on Monday with Ms Griner's WNBA team-mates to discuss the administration's work to bring her home.

"There is a lot involved in getting her back home and safe, they're working relentlessly," Phoenix Mercury star Diana Taurasi said after the meeting, in a statement released by the team.

"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."

Image source, Getty Images
Image caption,
Ms Griner is rated as one of the best female basketball players in history

The current WNBA season, which would have been Ms Griner's eighth, has been marked by her absence. A three-time league champion and seven-time All-Star, she is considered one of the most dominant players in her sport's history.

In recent weeks players in both the women's and men's leagues have intensified calls for her release, many wearing clothing with her Mercury jersey number - 42 - and the phrase "We Are BG".

Ms Griner's loved ones and fellow basketball players have been able to communicate with her through email. The emails are printed out and delivered to her by her lawyer after they are examined by Russian officials.

Ms Griner had initially travelled to Russia to play for EuroLeague team UMMC Ekaterinburg, where she had worked since 2014 during the US off-season. Roughly half of WNBA players compete overseas in the off-season.

For most, it's a way to augment their domestic income: WNBA players receive roughly five times more in Russia than they do in the US.

Related Topics