By Jennifer Roback
Brittney Griner was seen in court on May 13, 2022, for the first time since being detained, and her detention was extended another 30 days. The ruling comes just days after the United States classified the WNBA star as being "wrongfully detained" by the Russian government.
"Today's news is a sobering reminder that international detention cases are long, winding, frustrating ordeals -- rarely straightforward," said Dani Gilbert, an assistant professor of military and strategic studies at the U.S. Air Force Academy and an expert in state-sponsored hostage-taking, per ESPN. "We honestly don't know if this is good or bad news. It could mean buying time to work out a swift deal for her release, or it could mean more complications put on the table."
Previously, the Russian state news agency TASS reported that the US was in talks with Russia about a possible exchange for Russian entrepreneur Viktor Bout, who was sentenced to 25 years in prison after he was found guilty of attempting to sell heavy arms to a Colombian rebel group, though it remains unclear where negotiations stand as of this writing.
State Department spokesperson Ned Price said an official from the US Embassy was able to talk with Griner during the hearing and revealed that she is holding up.
“The officer was able to confirm that Brittney Griner is doing as well as can be expected under what can only be described as exceedingly difficult circumstances,” Price told CNN.
The 2022 WNBA season began on May 6 without Griner but the league is honoring her by having her initials and jersey number (42) painted on the home courts of all 12 teams. She will also be paid her full salary.
“We continue to be working diligently on bringing Brittney Griner home,” WNBA commissioner Cathy Engelbert said, via Sports Illustrated. “This is an unimaginable situation for (Griner) to be in … Certainly we’re trying everything that we can, every angle, working through with her legal representation, her agent, elected leaders, the administration, just everybody in our ecosystem to try and find ways to get her home safely and as quickly as we can.”
Griner has been detained in Russia since February after officials allegedly discovered vape cartridges containing cannabis oil in her luggage at an airport. Russia’s Customs Service has since opened a case against her for the “large-scale transportation of drugs,” per The New York Times, which can carry a sentence of up to 10 years.