A court in Russia has extended the pre-trial detention of WNBA superstar Brittney Griner for an additional 18 days.
The extension was ordered by the Khimki Court of the Moscow Region after investigators requested it, according to a report by Russian state news agency TASS and reported by The New York Times. Extensions are usually given in Russia leading up to a trial.
Griner was arrested on February 17 at Sheremetyevo International Airport in Moscow after authorities allegedly found vape cartridges containing residue of hashish oil in her luggage.
“Today’s extension is just further reinforcement that Brittney Griner - an Olympian and an American citizen - is being used as a political pawn,” Griner’s agent, Lindsay Kagawa Coles, posted to social media. “Her detention is inhumane and unacceptable.”
Griner is reportedly under investigation for the “large-scale transportation of drugs” and could face up to 10 years in prison if convicted.
The Biden administration has called the detention unlawful and has said it is committed to taking the steps necessary to bring her home.
“The Department of State has determined that the Russian Federation has wrongfully detained U.S. citizen Brittney Griner,” a State Department official said last month. “With this determination, the Special Presidential Envoy for Hostage Affairs Roger Carstens will lead the interagency team for securing Brittney Griner’s release.”
State Department spokesperson Ned Price said at the time that Russian authorities had denied three requests for U.S. diplomats to meet with Griner and that the denial was “unacceptable.” A consular official was only able to speak briefly with Griner “on the margins of her court proceedings,” but added that this type of “sporadic contact is not satisfactory.” U.S. officials were eventually given approval by Russia to visit her.
Griner is a seven-time WNBA all-star winner of two Olympic gold medals for Team USA. She dominated the women’s basketball gold medal game at the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, and the record of slam dunks in the WNBA. She was also honored by The Advocate's sister publication Out as a 2013 Out100 honoree. Griner came out in 2013.
Griner’s wife, Cherelle Griner, has called on the Biden administration to do more to bring about her release.
“There is one person that can go get her, and that's our president,” Griner told Angela Rye of ESPN in May. “He has that power. You know, I’m just like, ‘Why are we not using it? Like, urgently, use it.’ We’re expecting him to use his power to get it done.”