WNBA star Briitney Griner has been wrongfully detained in Russia for 130 days. Her imprisonment has been repeatedly extended with very little information released by the Russian government. Now, her case has reached another crucial stage, as a trial date has finally been set.
According to CNN, per Griner’s lawyer, Alexander Boykov, the two-time Olympic gold medalist’s trial will begin on Friday, July 1. She was seen arriving at a preliminary hearing on Monday, wearing a gray shirt and glasses. The WNBA champion was “handcuffed and flanked by guards in black vests.”
The Phoenix Mercury center has been held in Russia since Feb. 17, when police say they found vape cartridges containing hash oil in her luggage. Though Americans were advised to leave Russia ahead of the country’s invasion of Ukraine, Griner was rejoining her Russian basketball team.
Since then, she has been wrongfully detained in conditions former Russian prisoner Trevor Reed called “medieval.” At a rally held in support of Griner in Houston on June 6, the former Marine described the conditions Brittney and American Paul Whelan are living with.
“They live in a cell that looks like it’s something out of the Middle Ages. As an American, you can’t imagine what that place looks like until you actually see that for yourselves. Those conditions are what Brittney and Paul are living in right now as we’re having this conversation,” Reed said.
The seven-time all-star has had limited contact with her family and friends through letters, though a recent scheduled phone call between Brittney and her wife Cherelle fell through due to lack of staff at the American Embassy.
Brittney’s absence has been particularly hard on her Phoenix teammates, as they have been noticeably, and understandably, emotional during games this season. WNBA and NBA stars have led the call for Brittney’s release, reminding everyone that she is being used as a political pawn, and pleading with President Biden to “bring Brittney home.”
“As a decorated Olympian and member of an elite global sport community, BG’s detention must be resolved out of respect for the sanctity of all sport and for all Americans traveling internationally,” LeBron James tweeted. “It is imperative that the U.S. Government immediately address this human rights issue and do whatever is necessary to return Brittney home. Join us in demanding that President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris bring Brittney home swiftly and safely by taking action today.”