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14 Jun, 2022 19:41

US women’s basketball star has Russian detention extended

Brittney Griner has been in custody since February
US women’s basketball star has Russian detention extended

American women's basketball star Brittney Griner has had her detention in Russia extended by a district court. Griner has been held on drug-related charges since mid-February after officials at Sheremetyevo Airport just outside Moscow allegedly found vape cartridges containing banned hashish oil in her luggage.

As reported by Russian media outlet TASS on Tuesday, her detention period was extended until at least July 2 with a Khimki Court representative saying the development had come at "the request of the investigation."

In a bid to earn Griner's freedom before she heads to court, Griner's wife Cherelle has appealed to US President Joe Biden and his administration to step in and use his political clout after the US government classified her as "wrongfully detained" on May 3.

"I just keep hearing that, you know, he has the power. She's a political pawn," Cherelle Griner claimed to Good Morning America. "So if they're holding her because they want you to do something, then I want you to do it," she demanded.

According to State Department spokesperson Ned Price, a US consular officer was able to meet with Griner on the 19th of last month and found Griner "continuing to do as well as could be expected under these exceedingly challenging circumstances".

Griner's WNBA team the Phoenix Mercury have said that they managed to meet with State Department officials and Representatives Sheila Jackson Lee and Greg Stanton when in the capital Washington DC.

"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," said Mercury star and Griner's teammate Diana Taurasi in a statement following the meetings, adding that they wanted their colleague "to come home as soon as possible," which is "number one on our list".

Cherelle Griner said that she hadn't spoken to her wife since her February 17 arrest when her cellphone was confiscated, although the couple have had contact through letters.

Griner was detained at Sheremetyevo Airport in February after a search of the 31-year-old's bag found vape cartridges with cannabis oil, which are illegal in Russia.

A two-time Olympic gold medalist, Griner had been arriving in Russia to play for UMMC Ekaterinburg during the off-season in the WNBA – something she had done in previous years.

Griner could face a sentence of between five and 10 years' imprisonment should she be found guilty on drug smuggling charges.

“We did not receive any complaints about the detention conditions from our client,” Griner’s lawyer, Alexander Boykov, told the AP at her last hearing back in May.