After four months, Brittney Griner finally has a trial start date, with a Russian court electing to begin the WNBA star’s trial Friday in Moscow.
Griner was arrested at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport in February for the alleged possession of cannabis. She is being tried for the “large scale transportation of drugs” which carries a sentence of up to 10 years in prison if convicted. Griner had been playing for Russian club UMMC Ekaterinburg.
The Phoenix Mercury star appeared Monday at a court in the Moscow suburb of Khimki, and her detention was extended for another six months pending the outcome of the case. Previously, she had been ordered to remain in pretrial detention until July 2.
In May, the U.S. State Department reclassified Griner to be wrongfully detained. Her case was then shifted to the government’s department that specializes in hostage affairs. Since then, many have speculated that she may return to the U.S. via prisoner swap, similar to a prisoner swap in April that brought home Marine veteran Trevor Reed.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken was asked Sunday on CNN about whether or not Griner and former Marine and security director Paul Whelan could be the subject of a prisoner swap.
“As a general proposition … I have got no higher priority than making sure that Americans who are being illegally detained in one way or another around the world come home,” he said. But “I can’t comment in any detail on what we’re doing, except to say this is an absolute priority.”
According to the Associated Press, Maria Yarmush, an international civil affairs lawyer, told Kremlin-funded TV channel RT that Griner first would have to be convicted and sentenced before applying for a presidential pardon in order to be swapped.