WNBA star Brittney Griner's agent has issued a statement in response to news of the 31-year-old receiving an additional six months in custody following a preliminary hearing in Russia.
Griner, who has been detained in the country since her Feb. 7 arrest, was given an extended sentence after appearing in handcuffs before a court in the Moscow suburb of Khimki on Monday. In a series of tweets shared later in the day, Lindsay Kagawa Colas addressed the nature of the proceedings and reiterated where things stand regarding her client.
“Today’s hearing was administrative in nature and not on the merits,” Colas wrote on Twitter. “That said, the fact remains that the U.S. Government has determined that Brittney Griner is wrongfully detained and being used as a political pawn.”
Colas followed the message with one urging president Joe Biden and vice president Kamala Harris to keep Griner’s release and safe return to the U.S. a “top priority.”
“The negotiation for her immediate release regardless of the legal proceedings should remain a top priority and we expect @POTUS and @VP to do everything in their power, right now, to get a deal done to bring her home. #WeAreBG,” Colas concluded.
In addition to now facing extended detention, Griner was also ordered to remain in custody for the duration of her criminal trial, which is set to begin July 1. The Mercury center could face up to 10 years in prison if convicted on charges of large-scale transportation of drugs; Griner was arrested at Sheremetyevo International Airport after Russian officials said they discovered vape cartridges containing cannabis oil in her luggage.
According to the Associated Press, “fewer than 1% of defendants in Russian criminal cases are acquitted, and unlike in the U.S., acquittals can be overturned.”
Monday’s news is the latest obstacle preventing Griner from returning home despite a mounting wave of support behind her case. The latest reports on Griner’s status came on June 21 when Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov disputed the U.S. State Department’s assertion that Griner is “wrongfully detained” in Russia during an interview with NBC News. He also did not give any indication as to when Griner would be released.
“She violated Russian law, and now she’s being prosecuted,” Peskov told NBC. “It’s not about being a hostage. There are lots of American citizens here. They’re enjoying their freedoms … but you have to obey the laws.”