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#pounditMonday, December 5, 2022

US government makes major change to handling of Brittney Griner case

Brittney Griner smiles

Mar 12, 2017; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Phoenix Mercury center Brittney Griner in attendance of the Phoenix Suns game against the Portland Trail Blazers at Talking Stick Resort Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Brittney Griner has been detained in Russia for more than two months as she awaits trial for an alleged drug offense, but the United States government is ramping up its efforts to have the WNBA star released.

The U.S. government has officially classified Griner as being wrongfully detained, according to ESPN’s T.J. Quinn. That is a shift from prior to this past weekend, when Griner’s case was merely being monitored by the consular office. Now that Griner has been classified as wrongfully detained, the U.S. government will likely seek to negotiate her release.

“The Department of State has determined that the Russian Federation has wrongfully detained U.S. citizen Brittney Griner,” the State Department said in a statement to ESPN. “With this determination, the Special Presidential Envoy for Hostage Affairs Roger Carstens will lead the interagency team for securing Brittney Griner’s release.”

Quinn reports that former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Bill Richardson, an experienced international hostage negotiator, recently agreed to work on Griner’s case. Griner’s team became more optimistic about her situation when U.S. and Russian officials negotiated the release of former U.S. Marine Trevor Reed last week. Reed had been detained in Russia since 2019.

Griner was taken into custody on Feb. 17 after authorities allegedly found vape cartridges containing hashish oil in her luggage. She is said to be facing up to 10 years in prison.

Russian state news reported last month that Griner’s pre-trial detention had been extended until May 19. Per the country’s laws, Griner can be held a lot longer than that before facing trial.

Griner, 31, and other WNBA players play in Russia during the offseason. Griner has received support from the NBA community, and there will likely be more attention brought to her case now that the U.S. government has classified her as wrongfully detained.


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