The case is more political rather than based on Law
After the detained WNBA player made a brief appearance on Monday for a court appearance behind closed doors at a hearing in the Moscow suburb of Khimki, her attorney, Alexander Boikov, verified the start date to CNN, according to the Associated Press. Boikov noted that the court decided to extend her custody for an additional six months as she awaits trial. According to the workload of the court, he told the New York Times that he anticipated Griner’s trial to last up to two months.
The two-time Olympic gold medalist was captured on camera arriving and exiting court without making any apparent comments while in the care of the authorities. Her prior stay in pretrial custody was scheduled to go until this coming Saturday.
Griner’s detention was described as “a hostage situation” and her trial as “political theater” intended to pressure the US government into a prisoner swap by Brian Whitmore, a nonresident senior fellow at the Eurasia Center of the Atlantic Council and assistant professor at the University of Texas Arlington.
“They want to trade her,” Whitmore said, “and they’re going to drag this out until they get something they want.”
Griner is “for all intents and purposes a political prisoner,” according to Rep. Colin Allred (D-Texas), and her supporters should be ready for a “sham” trial that results in a guilty conviction and a prison sentence.
“This will all mean nothing, and I will keep working closely with the Biden Administration to bring her, and all Americans detained abroad, home safely,” said Allred
Allred argued that Griner’s court appearance on Monday and the subsequent trial are “all theater to give Russia some appearance of having a fair legal system, for her detention to be anything other than a deeply cynical, geo-political power play with a prominent American, and to put more pressure on the negotiations for her release.”
She plays in Russia for more income
The 31-year-old Griner, a player for the Phoenix Mercury, was detained on February 17 at Sheremetyevo International Airport just prior to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on suspicion of possessing cannabis oil-containing vape cartridges, which are prohibited in that country. Griner plays in Russia to boost her income, joining a large number of WNBA players who travel abroad during the offseason.
Since Griner has been deemed to have been “wrongfully held,” the State Department has changed its approach and stated that it will no longer wait for the matter to be heard by the Russian legal system before acting more hastily to secure her release. She could spend ten years behind bars if found guilty of large-scale narcotics transportation. The Associated Press reports that less than 1% of defendants in criminal proceedings in Russia are found not guilty, and that acquittals can be reversed.
State Department spokesperson said:
“We have no higher priority than the safety and security of U.S. citizens overseas. The Department of State has determined that the Russian Federation has wrongfully detained U.S. citizen Brittney Griner. The U.S. government will continue to provide appropriate support to Ms. Griner and her family. We will continue to press for her release.”
The hearing “was administrative in nature and not on the merits,” according to Griner’s agent Lindsay Kagawa Colas’ tweet from Monday. Despite this, it is still true that Brittney Griner is being illegally held captive and utilized as a pawn in a political game, according to the US Government. We anticipate that [President Biden and Vice President Harris] will do all within their ability, right now, to get a deal done to bring her home. We expect that the negotiation for her immediate release, regardless of the legal proceedings, should remain a high priority.
Cherelle Griner, Griner’s wife, told the AP last week that she had “zero trust” in how the U.S. government is handling the case after their planned phone call was canceled due to what the State Department claimed was a “unfortunate circumstance.”
“I find it unacceptable, and I have zero trust in our government right now,” Cherelle Griner said. “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.”
Supporters of Griner have advocated for a prisoner swap similar to the one that involved Marine veteran Trevor Reed, who had been held since 2019, and a Russian pilot who had been found guilty of drug trafficking conspiracy in April.
She may be swapped for Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout, also known as “the Merchant of Death,” who is currently serving a 25-year term for conspiring to kill Americans and aiding a terrorist group. This speculation has been made in Russian news media. However, the U.S. authorities is unlikely to accept that given the discrepancy in their offenses.
And 40 min later the preliminary hearing is over. No comment from Griner. Her Russian lawyer says the judge extended her detention for the length of her trial. No date set. Curiously, no US embassy officials present for the hearing. #BrittneyGriner pic.twitter.com/FSYprXjSgs
— Charles Maynes (@cwmiii3) June 27, 2022
“They want Viktor Bout back. He’s connected to the highest levels of Russian government. This is an attempt to get him back,” Whitmore said. “It’s clear the [Biden] administration is under increasing pressure from society, from Griner’s friends and family. It’s not an enviable position here, because it’s clear what the Russian government wants. This is akin to negotiating with a terrorist.”