Two Months After Griner's Arrest in Russia, Few Answers

WNBA star remains detained on drug charges
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Apr 23, 2022 11:30 AM CDT
Two Months After Griner's Arrest in Russia, Few Answers
Phoenix Mercury center Brittney Griner remains detained in Russia.   (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin, File)

(Newser) – For another person in another country at another time, the case might have been a minor matter: an American citizen detained at an airport for allegedly possessing a cannabis derivative legal in much of the world. But the circumstances for Brittney Griner couldn’t have been worse, per the AP. Griner, a WNBA All-Star and two-time Olympic gold medalist, was arrested in Russia, where the offense can mean years in prison, and at a moment when tensions with the US were rising to their highest point in decades. She is a prominent gay, Black woman facing trial in a country where authorities have been hostile to the LGBTQ community and the country’s nationalist zeal has raised concerns about how she will be treated.

As extraordinary as her circumstances are, the details surrounding Griner's case remain a mystery as a crucial court date approaches next month. Russian prosecutors have offered little clarity and the US government has made only measured statements. Griner’s legal team has declined to speak out about the case as it works behind the scenes. Griner is easily the most prominent American citizen known to be jailed by a foreign government, but in many ways her case isn’t unusual. Americans are frequently arrested overseas on drug and other charges, and US authorities are limited about what they can say or the help they can offer.

The State Department generally can’t do much to help beyond consular visits and helping the American get an attorney. It also can’t say much unless the person arrested waives privacy rights, which Griner hasn’t fully done. In some cases, US officials do speak out loudly when they’re convinced an American has been wrongly detained. But Griner’s case is barely two months old and officials have yet to make that determination. A State Department office that works to free American hostages and unjust detainees is not known to be involved. (Read the AP's full assessment of the case.)

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