WNBA star Brittney Griner’s trial in Russia gets Friday start date

WNBA star and two-time Olympic gold medalist Brittney Griner leaves a courtroom after a hearing, in Khimki just outside Moscow, Russia, Monday, June 27, 2022. (Alexander Zemlianichenko/AP)

The criminal trial for Women’s National Basketball Association star Brittney Griner, who has been detained in Russia since a cannabis-possession arrest in February, will begin in the country on Friday, a court said Monday.

Griner appeared at a private hearing Monday and was told she would remain in Russian custody during the trial. The court added six months to her detention on Monday.

Authorities arrested Griner at a Moscow airport after hashish oil was allegedly discovered inside her luggage. The arrest occurred days before Russia invaded Ukraine, exacerbating the strained relationship between the U.S. and Russia.

The 6-foot-9 Griner, who plays center for the Phoenix Mercury, was pictured in handcuffs on her way to Monday’s hearing in Khimki, near Moscow.

A conviction for large-scale drug transportation could result in a 10-year prison sentence for Griner.

The Biden administration has said Griner, 31, is being “wrongfully detained.”

On Sunday, CNN asked Secretary of State Antony Blinken whether the U.S. would consider returning Russian arms trader Viktor Bout, who is in American custody, in return for Griner and Paul Whalen, who is detained in Russia on an espionage conviction.

“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,” Blinken said, before adding that he “can’t comment in any detail on what we’re doing, except to say this is an absolute priority.”

Griner, who is from Houston, was the first overall pick in the 2013 WNBA draft after a standout college basketball career with Baylor. She is an eight-time WNBA all-star, including this season when she was named an honorary starter amid her detainment, and has averaged 17.7 points, 7.6 rebounds and 2.2 blocks per game in her career.

She has played her entire WNBA career with the Mercury, winning a championship with the team in 2014, and has won two Olympic gold medals with Team U.S.A.

Earlier this month, Griner’s wife said the American embassy failed to connect them for a phone call for their anniversary. The State Department attributed it to a “logistical error” due to weekend staffing.

“I find it unacceptable and I have zero trust in our government right now,” Cherelle Griner told the Associated Press. “If I can’t trust you to catch a Saturday call outside of business hours, how can I trust you to actually be negotiating on my wife’s behalf to come home? Because that’s a much bigger ask than to catch a Saturday call.”