In February of this year, two-time Olympic gold medalist Brittney Griner was detained at the Moscow airport when Russian officials found cannabis oil cartridges in her luggage. Since then, she has been held in a Russian detainment center and could face up to ten years in prison.
On Wednesday, former US Marine Trevor Reed was released from Russian detention following being wrongfully detained since 2019. After allegedly assaulting a Russian police officer, he was taken into custody where he stayed for nearly three years. With his family pressing the federal administration, President Biden was finally able to negotiate a prisoner exchange and send Reed home. Given these circumstances, it gives a ray of home for Griner’s case.
Although their cases vastly differ and Reed had a particularly unique stay due to ongoing health issues, spokesperson Ned Price told reporters in mid-April that the US administration remained dedicated to negotiating with Russian officials in order to bring home prisoners detained in Russia, including Griner.
He sheared, according to Buzzfeed News, “We are in frequent contact with her legal team, with her broader network, and we have no higher priority than the safety and security of Americans, including those who are incarcerated in Russia.”
What does Brittney Griner’s WNBA status do for her detainment?
However, there are problems that arise when taking into consideration Russia’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine. Considering her celebrity status, it is likely that Russian President Vladimir Putin will place a higher emphasis on Griner as a bargaining chip.
With this being said, there is a level of uncertainty that comes with discussing her case. She has not yet seen a trial, which means she is not yet in the Russian legal system, and there is a high probability that her case could be postponed. With all these factors in place, the longer her trial is postponed, the longer she will stay in detention as US officials are unable to propose negotiations for her alleged crimes.
Kogawa Colas, a writer for the Los Angeles Times, recently shed light o a small community of activists that are actively fighting for Griner’s safe return home. Knowing that if people are overly vocal Putin is more likely to keep her in detention for a longer time, this group has to move through their demands in a calculated manner.
“It’s a community that chooses its words carefully, that’s used to moving together as a unit,” Colas wrote. “For now, that community is doing its best to trust in BG’s legal team and have confidence in the White House’s commitment to doing everything in their power to bring Brittney home.”
Danielle Gilbert, an assistant professor of military and strategic studies at the U.S. Air Force Academy also noted similar sentiments. Speaking on behalf of Griner’s status as a WNBA star, she explained, “The problem with increasing publicity is that it can raise the stakes. Making her seem more valuable only puts more power in the hands of [Russian President] Vladimir Putin and makes them have a higher bar for releasing her.”
Griner has a set court date in Russia on May 19th, but whether or not the trial will be postponed is to be determined.
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