Brittney Griner: Russian court set trial for Friday, says her lawyer

Griner, who has been in Russian custody since her arrest at a Moscow airport on charges of attempting to smuggle drugs, attended Monday’s preliminary hearing in person, arriving in court handcuffed and escorted by guards in black vests, according to an AFP photo. photographer Kirill Kudryavtsev.

Her lawyer Alexander Boikov previously told CNN that the hearing would take place behind closed doors at the Khimki court near Moscow.

Griner, 31, a Phoenix Mercury player who plays in Russia during the WNBA offseason, was arrested on February 17. 10 years in prison.

Griner’s detention, which has been repeatedly extended, has sparked a wave of support from dozens of organizations in the US that have joined Britney Griner’s wife, Cherell Griner, in calling for President Joe Biden to strike a swap deal with Russian authorities to free Griner and prosecute him. get her home safe and sound as soon as possible.

Griner’s supporters have expressed concern that she could be used as a political pawn given rising tensions over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

More than 40 organizations, including the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, the Human Rights Campaign, GLAAD, the National Urban League and the National Women’s Basketball Players Association, signed a letter to President Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris calling for action. to free Griner.

Families of Americans Detained Abroad Urge Biden to Take Urgent Action to Release Their Loved Ones

US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken had a one-on-one talk with Cherell Griner last Wednesday, according to a senior State Department official. And U.S. National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan told reporters aboard Air Force One on Tuesday that he and Blinken have been talking to Cherell “over the past few days … to convey that we just can’t even imagine what the family has to go through.” . and that “Britney must be going through.”

Sherel Griner said last week that she had not spoken to her wife since February 17.

“I have no higher priority than making sure that Americans who are illegally detained around the world in one way or another return home,” the minister said. Blinken told CNN’s State of the Union program at the G7 summit on Sunday.

“That includes Paul Whelan, including Britney Greener, including people in a number of other countries,” he added. Whelan is a US citizen detained in Moscow in 2018 and arrested on charges of espionage. He denied the accusations.

“I can’t comment in detail on what we’re doing other than to say it’s an absolute priority,” Blinken said.

While Griner’s trial has been set, that shouldn’t stop US officials from trying to negotiate her release. her agent said on Twittercalling Monday’s hearing “administrative in nature, not substance.”

“Negotiations for her immediate release, regardless of legal action, must remain a top priority,” wrote Lindsey Kagawa Kolas, “and we expect @POTUS and @VP to do everything in their power right now to broker a deal to bring her home.”

Dozens of Organizations Sign Letter Calling on President Biden to Make a Deal to Release Britney Greener

The US Embassy in Moscow will send a US diplomat to Britney Griner’s hearing on Friday, a US official told CNN.

A State Department spokesman reiterated that Griner was “wrongfully detained” and said support for her and her family would continue. “The US Government will continue to provide appropriate support to Ms. Griner and her family. We will continue to push for her release.”

Last week, Griner was named an honorary member of the WNBA All-Star Game due July 10 in Chicago.

Griner’s detention abroad is still “tough on our team,” Phoenix Mercury head coach Vanessa Nygaard told reporters ahead of the team’s game on Monday against the Indiana Five.

She expressed her hope that Griner would return home soon and that President Joe Biden would “take steps to get her home.”

Kylie Atwood and Betsy Klein of CNN contributed to this report.

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