Russian court extends Brittney Griner's detention
JUANA SUMMERS, HOST:
A Russian court has again extended the detention of U.S. basketball star Brittney Griner. She'll be held for the duration of an upcoming trial on drug charges. NPR's Charles Maynes was at the courthouse today, and he has our story.
UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: Brittney, how do you feel?
CHARLES MAYNES, BYLINE: A handcuffed Brittney Griner appeared briefly before the press as she was led by guards and even a guard dog to the closed preliminary hearing that extended her detention. In fact, afterward, Griner's lawyer, Alexander Boikov, said that's all today's legal proceedings touched on.
ALEXANDER BOIKOV: It was a technical hearing, the first hearing, the preliminary hearing. It was the prolongation of the arrest, not more than that.
MAYNES: Griner's actual trial on drug charges gets underway this Friday, July 1. That's more than four months after she was detained at a Moscow airport upon arriving to play offseason in a Russian basketball league. Russian officials allege the two-time Olympic gold medalist and WNBA star was carrying vape cartridges containing cannabis oil, a potential drug smuggling violation for which she faces up to 10 years in prison.
Yet Griner's case has also unfolded against the backdrop of cratering U.S.-Russian relations over the Kremlin's military campaign in neighboring Ukraine. The U.S. government declared Griner wrongfully detained in May and is assigned her case to its envoy for hostage affairs amid growing public pressure to gain her release. In a recent appearance on CNN's "State Of The Union" with journalist Jake Tapper, Secretary of State Antony Blinken suggested the White House did not rule out a potential prisoner swap for Griner and another jailed American, Paul Whelan, much like a trade that freed former Marine Trevor Reed from a Russian jail earlier this year.
(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "STATE OF THE UNION")
ANTONY BLINKEN: As a general proposition, Jake, I've got no higher priority than making sure that Americans who are being illegally detained in one way or another around the world come home. And that includes Paul Whelan. That includes Brittney Griner. That includes people in a number of other countries.
MAYNES: American officials, however, were not present at the courthouse today. An embassy spokeswoman later explained the absence, telling NPR, U.S. officials had been told they would not be allowed to attend the day's closed proceedings but would be there for the duration of Griner's trial.
Charles Maynes, NPR News, Moscow.
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