Sports

WNBA works with US trying to get Brittney Griner freed from Russian prison


FILE PHOTO: Brittney Griner of the United States gestures during a match against Australia at Saitama Super Arena during the quarterfinals of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic women's basketball in Saitama, Japan August 4, 2021.

FILE PHOTO: Brittney Griner of the United States gestures during the match against Australia at Saitama Super Arena during the quarterfinals of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic women’s basketball in Saitama, Japan August 4, 2021. REUTERS/Brian Snyder

NEW YORK — The WNBA on Thursday said it was working with the US government to free All-Star Brittney Griner from a Russian prison after news agency TASS reported her detention for possession of a vape cartridge containing hash oil extended until May 19.

TASS said the Khimkinsky court of the Moscow region had ordered the detention of Griner, 31, who was arrested last month, for at least two more months. Griner played in Russia during the WNBA’s off-winter season.

Her detention comes at a time of heightened tensions between the United States and Russia after Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.

“This continues to be a complicated, incredibly difficult situation for Brittney, her family and everyone else hoping for a quick resolution,” the WNBA said. “Our number one priority remains her safe return.”

“In close cooperation with US government agencies, elected officials, individuals and organizations with expertise in these matters, as well as representatives and Brittney Griner’s family, we I continue to work diligently to bring her home safely.”

The US State Departurest said it is working on the case and is in contact with Griner’s legal team. A State Department spokesman said officials are working to secure consular access for all US citizens detained in Russia, including those in pre-trial detention.

“We have repeatedly requested consular access to these detainees and have been repeatedly denied access,” a spokesman told Reuters.

“Russia must comply with its legal obligations and allow us to provide consular services to US citizens detained in Russia.”

LEGAL ISSUE

Griner representatives referred to Reuters in an earlier statement saying they would not comment on the specifics of an ongoing legal matter.

Grinder wins Olymphatic gold medal with US national teams in 2016 and 2021 and is a seven-time star. She played the central role for the Phoenix Mercury. The WNBA regular season will begin on May 6 of this year.

A source close to the situation said that Thursday’s hearing only involved Griner’s legal team challenging her detention, with the aim of transferring her to house arrest.

This person said.

The investigation is ongoing and once concluded, an expected trial date will be set. The source confirmed that Griner has met with her Russian legal team several times since her detention.

TASS reported that Griner was sharing a cell with two other women without a criminal record. It reported her only problem was that the prison bed was too short for her 6.7-inch frame.

The Russian Customs Service this month said a player was detained in FebruaryFter arrived at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport on a flight from New York.

TASS identified the player as Griner, citing a source.

Customs said a scan of the player’s luggage revealed the cartridges contained “liquid with hash oil” and a criminal case has been opened with a possible sentence of five to 10 years in prison.

It is unclear exactly when Griner was detained but it was announced after Russia invaded Ukraine on 24 February.

The invasion has dramatically worsened relations between Washington and Moscow, and US President Joe Biden this week phoned the Russian leader. Vladimir Putin a war criminal.

Russia calls its actions in Ukraine a “special operation” designed not to seize territory but to destroy the neighboring country’s military capabilities and capture what it considers its own followers. dangerous nationalism.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said this week that the Biden administration has appointed an embassy team to work on the Griner case.

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