Olympian & WNBA athlete Brittney Griner has been detained in Russia for months for possessing vape cartridges containing hashish oil. The US government finally managed to get access to the athlete.
US Government Gains Access
Brittney Griner has been declared “in good condition” after the US government finally got access to the athlete in Russia.
The US State Department spokesperson Ned Price made the announcement on CNN on Wednesday. He also mentioned that Russia is now allowing the US to provide consular access to Griner. An official from the US embassy has seen her “within the past couple hours,” and found that she’s doing okay.
“There’s only so much I can say,” Price said, “but what I can say is that our official found Brittney Griner to be in good condition. And we will continue to do everything we can to see to it that she is treated fairly throughout this ordeal.”
He also promised that the US government will “work very closely with her legal team, with her broader network, to see to it that she is treated fairly. That is a message that we will continue to convey in no uncertain terms to the Russian Federation.”
Demands To See Brittney Griner
The State Department demanded Russia allow US officials to see Brittney Griner while she awaits trial for her alleged offenses.
In a statement released to the Associated Press on Friday, the State Department said it is “insisting” Russia provide “consular access” to Griner.
It was the first time the State Department used her name in a public address. The officials added that they’re “closely engaged on the case,” and are in “frequent contact with Brittney Griner’s legal team.”
Griner House Arrest Request Denied
On Thursday, a hearing to request that the Russian court put Brittney Griner under house arrest was firmly denied. The Olympian will be detained until her next hearing, scheduled for May 19th.
Russian investigators will set a trial date to bring the matter to court after reviewing the facts of the case. If they need more time, they’ll request an extension in May.
However, Griner’s legal team has visited her many times at the location where she’s being held. They shared that Griner is “OK,” but clearly wants to return home as soon as possible.
Meanwhile, Congresswoman Cori Bush tweeted out two days ago.
“We cannot ignore the fact that if Brittney Griner wasn’t a Black woman, it would be plastered across the news that she is being held as a political prisoner in Russia. Free Brittney Griner.”
ESPN reporter T.J. Quinn published a thirteen-tweet-long thread about what is known about Griner. He also highlighted the importance to keeping her situation low-profile,
“Until yesterday, the US govt and PCTG had been deliberately low-key about her confinement. The thinking is that she’s better off handling her case in the Russian legal system, and if there is too much attention it makes her more valuable as a political chit.”
Brittney Griner Detained With Two Drug Offenders
With Brittney Griner’s detention in Russia on drug charges being extended until May 19th, Griner will have spent more than three months in custody with no indication on her release date.
The TASS report cited the Khimki Court of the Moscow region for the update on Griner’s status. Ekaterina Kalugina, a human rights activist from Russia’s Public Monitoring Commission, informed TASS that Griner is sharing a cell with two other women also charged with first-time, drug-related offenses.
Former US First Lady & Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is one of the few high ranking politicians to speak out on her behalf, sharing a tweet recently that simply said, “Free Brittney.”
Who is Brittney Griner?
Brittney Griner is a 31-year-old African-American professional basketball player for the WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury team. She played college basketball for the Baylor Lady in Waco, Texas and is the only NCAA player to score 2,000 points and block 500 shots. In 2012, she was named the AP Player of the Year and the Most Outstanding Player of the Final Four.
Griner played for the Russian team UMMC Ekaterinburg for several years during the American league’s off-season. This is a common practice for US athletes.
Griner Detained For Alleged Hashish Possession
On Saturday, March 5th, Russian officials announced they had detained an American basketball player and Olympic gold medalist, but did not identify the athlete as Griner. According to Russia’s Interfax News Agency, “‘As a US citizen was passing through the green channel at Sheremetyevo Airport upon arriving from New York, a working dog from the Sheremetyevo Customs canine department detected the possible presence of narcotic substances in the accompanying luggage.’”
Russian Federal Customs Service did not release the player’s name, but the Russian news agency TASS, who cited a law enforcement source, identified the player as Brittney Griner. Russian Federal Customs Service said officials had detained the player after finding vape cartridges that contained hashish oil in her luggage at the Sheremetyevo airport near Moscow. A video was released of a traveler going through airport security, appearing to be Griner.
Representative Joaquin Castro of Texas says he believes Griner is being used as a “political pawn.”
Support Pours In
Brittney Griner’s wife, Cherelle Griner, has shared her devastation over Brittney’s detainment in Russia. She said their family is in pain and that she misses Brittney’s voice, indicating that the Olympian has had little or no contact with family since being detained.
Griner is also getting support from ex-wife, Glory B. Johnson. Glory shared prayers for Brittney on Instagram. Meanwhile, TV host and Navy and Marine Corps veteran Montel Williams said he believes Brittney is being “wrongfully detained.”