Blinken assures wife of WNBA star Griner her release is ‘top priority’

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken told Brittney Griner’s wife that on Saturday The release of the WNBA star who has been in custody in Russia for nearly three months has been a top priority for the Biden administration.

The 31-year-old Griner, a two-time Olympic gold medalist, was arrested in February at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport for possession of cannabis-infused vaporizer cartridges that were found in her luggage.

Russian officials say her arrest is based on ‘objective facts and evidence’. ‘She was caught red-handed while trying to smuggle hash oil. In Russia, this is a crime, ‘a statement, obtained by CNN, read.

Drug smuggling charges in the country could carry a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison.

The basketball star was in Russia to play for UMMC Yekaterinburg on a reported $ 1million contract.

The Biden administration says Griner is being wrongly detained. US officials and the WNBA have been working toward its release, without visible progress.

On Saturday, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken told Cherelle Griner (pictured left) that the United States is working day and night to secure the release of his wife WNBA star, Brittney Griner (pictured right), who has been custody in Russia. for about three months

US basketball star Brittney Griner, 31, (pictured) was seen with her hood up and hair covering her face as she left a Moscow court Friday after being told her Russian detention was extended by a month.

US basketball star Brittney Griner, 31, (pictured) was seen with her hood up and hair covering her face as she left a Moscow court Friday after being told her Russian detention was extended by a month.

Griner last appeared in court on Friday, where she said her pretrial detention would be extended by a month, Griner’s lawyer Alexander Boykov told Reuters.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken told Brittney Griner's wife, Cherelle Griner, that he was working on Griner's release and that it was a

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken told Brittney Griner’s wife, Cherelle Griner, that he was working on Griner’s release and that it was a “top priority”

Boykov told The Associated Press that he thinks a relatively short extension of the Griner’s case could go to trial soon.

In light of the recent events, Blinken told Cherelle Griner on Saturday that the United States is working day and night on the case, which has her full attention.

Lindsay Kawaga, the The Mercury star’s agent said in a statement on Friday that the extension was announced That Griner’s team expects the government to use ‘all options available immediately and safely to Griner home,’ AP reported.

Diplomats from the US Embassy in Moscow spoke to Griner on Friday and reported she was ‘doing as well as possible in these situations,’ according to State Department spokesman Ned Price, the news outlet reported.

In early May, Griner’s case was handed over to the US Special Presidential Envoy for Hostage Affairs (SPEHA), which negotiated the release of hostages and deemed other Americans wrongfully detained.

The allegations against Griner have not been proven in court, and several public officials, including US Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee, have accused the Russian government of bringing false charges against Griner and other imprisoned Americans.

Griner pleaded not guilty to charges in a Moscow court last month.

Russian officials have called out US, saying state representatives are trying to ‘influence justice’ by sticking to their nose.

The charges are serious, based on objective facts and evidence that is available. Attempts by the State Department to cast doubt on the validity of the detention of B. Griner are explained solely by the desire to influence justice by politicizing a generally understandable situation, ‘the statement reportedly read.

‘The final point, in this case, should be made by the court.’

After repeated requests, a State Department official in Moscow was granted consular access to Griner last month and the basketball player, who was the first draft pick for the WNBA, was in “good condition.”

‘We were able to check on her condition, we will continue to work very closely with her legal team, with her broader network, to see that she is treated fairly,’ a representative said at the time.

‘Our official found Brittney Griner to be in good condition and we will continue to do everything we can to see that she is treated fairly throughout this ordeal.’

The basketball player was arrested and detained at a Moscow airport on February 18 (pictured) for allegedly bringing vape cartridges containing hash oil, which is illegal in Russia

The basketball player was arrested and detained at a Moscow airport on February 18 (pictured) for allegedly bringing vape cartridges containing hash oil, which is illegal in Russia

Her only issue was that the prison beds in the jail were reportedly too short for her 6-foot-9 frame.

‘The beds in the cell are clearly designed for a person’, activist Ekaterina Kalugina, a member of the Human Rights Watchdog’s Public Monitoring Commission – accessed a semi-official body with Russian prisons – said the outlet was allegedly visiting the facility last week. where Griner is being held.

Russian officials have also extended her detention until May 19 while they investigate the charges. Law expert Peter Maggs said the Russian government has been known to plant drugs on people ‘if the regime wants to get them into trouble.’

US government officials and Griner’s own agency have hesitated to say too much about her situation, probably because doing so could give the Russian government more incentive to keep her imprisoned.

Griner (pictured in February), considered one of the best female basketball players in the world, was in Russia to play at UMMC Yekaterinburg on a reported $ 1million contract

Griner (pictured in February), considered one of the best female basketball players in the world, was in Russia to play at UMMC Yekaterinburg on a reported $ 1million contract

Griner won Olympic gold medals with the US national teams in 2016 and 2021 and is a seven-time All-Star who also plays for the Phoenix Mercury in the WNBA but was drawn to the Russian league for the higher salaries.

Griner won Olympic gold medals with the US national teams in 2016 and 2021 and is a seven-time All-Star who also plays for the Phoenix Mercury in the WNBA but was drawn to the Russian league for the higher salaries.

Washington and Moscow have kept diplomatic channels open, despite dire dire state bilateral relations since Russia began invasion with Ukraine on February 24.

Last month, a prison swap took place trading US Marine veteran Trevor Reed, who was serving a nine-year sentence in Russia on assault charges, with Russian Pilot, Konstantin Yaroshenko.

Yaroshenko was serving a 20-year sentence in the United States after being convicted of drug trafficking.

Russia continues to hold Paul Whelan, another US Marine veteran who was sentenced to 16 years in prison for espionage in 2020.

Griner won Olympic gold medals with the US national teams in 2016 and 2021 and is a seven-time All-Star who also plays for the WNBA in the Phoenix Mercury but was drawn to the Russian league for the higher salaries.

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