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WNBA star Brittney Griner's detention in Russia is extended by a month

WNBA star and two-time Olympic gold medalist Brittney Griner leaves a courtroom in Khimki just outside Moscow, Russia, on May 13, 2022.
Alexander Zemlianichenko
/
AP
WNBA star and two-time Olympic gold medalist Brittney Griner leaves a courtroom in Khimki just outside Moscow, Russia, on May 13, 2022.

Updated May 13, 2022 at 1:39 PM ET

MOSCOW — A Russian court has extended the pre-trial detention of WNBA basketball star Brittney Griner by one month, her Moscow lawyer tells NPR.

Griner's lawyer, Alexander Boikov said a snap hearing was announced for Friday during which the judge prolonged the 31-year-old athlete's detention ahead of a trial on drug possession charges in mid-June.

"It could take longer. It could happen quicker," said Boikov, who described the scheduling ambiguity as "typical."

Griner, a two-time Olympic gold medalist and star center with the Phoenix Mercury, was detained at the Moscow airport in February after vape cartridges containing cannabis oil were allegedly found in her luggage.

Griner had just arrived in Russia to play for UMMC Ekaterinburg in the country's professional women's basketball league.

The drug charges carry a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison.

Boikov described Griner's mood as "normal" given her circumstances in a Russian prison.

Phoenix Mercury center Brittney Griner during Game 2 of the WNBA Finals against the Chicago Sky on Oct. 13, 2021.  The State Department says it now regards Griner as wrongfully detained, a change in classification that suggests the U.S. government will be more active in trying to secure her release.
Rick Scuteri / AP
/
AP
Phoenix Mercury center Brittney Griner during Game 2 of the WNBA Finals against the Chicago Sky on Oct. 13, 2021. The State Department says it now regards Griner as wrongfully detained, a change in classification that suggests the U.S. government will be more active in trying to secure her release.

"She's been treated OK and has no concerns or complaints about her health. Everything is as OK as it could be," he said.

He noted that prison officials had issued her a lengthier bed in March after Griner — who is 6 feet, 9 inches tall — complained about standard accommodations.

She currently shares a cell with two Russian women also awaiting trial on similar drug charges.

"The Russians speak some English," added Boikov. "They're not friends , they're not enemies. They support each other as they can."

Earlier this month, the U.S. government declared Griner was "wrongfully detained" — a move that moves responsibility for her case from consular affairs to a special envoy for hostage affairs.

A State Department official said the department did not have a comment on Friday's development, but said, "As we have stated repeatedly, the Russian system wrongfully detained Ms. Griner."

The official said U.S. diplomats attended Friday's hearing and were able to speak with Griner. "She is doing as well as can be expected in these circumstances," the official added.

Boikov tells NPR her legal team had been in touch regularly with U.S. officials. "Everything they can do, they're doing," he says.

The snap hearing came the same day as Russian media speculated about a possible prisoner swap between Moscow and Washington involving Griner.

Last month, the White House agreed to a prisoner exchange with the Kremlin to free Trevor Reed, a U.S. Marine sentenced to nine years in a Russian prison, on what the U.S. also said were false charges.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.