Yellow Star
Yellow Star

Russia's pre-trial imprisonment of Brittney Griner

Brittney Griner hasn't had a trial date since her Moscow airport arrest 100 days ago.

A Russian court extended the WNBA star's pre-trial detention for a third time Tuesday, until at least July 2.

The delays are to give prosecutors more time to gather evidence, even if the probe seems simple.

Only Griner and the airport customs agents who allegedly found drugs in her suitcase are witnesses.

The main evidence appears to be hashish oil vape cartridges obtained at the checkpoint.

Yuval Weber, an expert on Russian military and political strategy, said the court actions are a technique to legitimise a negotiation approach.

Weber anticipates Russia to keep Griner in the news in the U.S. to compel the Biden administration to embrace a settlement the Kremlin wants.

"The Russians want Brittney Griner to remain prominent," said Weber, a distinguished scholar at Marine Corps University's Brute Krulak Center for Innovation and Future Warfare.

They don't care about bad press since it's everywhere. A poor headline won't matter. The headlines can put pressure on President Biden and the U.S. if they couldn't save a high-profile person.

Griner is under investigation for drug trafficking and risks 10 years in jail if convicted. Last month, the U.S. designated Griner as "wrongfully detained" by the Russian government, allowing the Biden administration to negotiate her release.

The U.S. last had consular access to Brittney Griner last month, a State Department spokesman said. Price told reporters the State Department learnt of Griner's recent incarceration through TASS.

Price said the whole matter is worrisome. It's why Brittney Griner is an unjust detainee. We're doing everything we can to have her released from Russian captivity.

Russia's ask price hinders these efforts. Viktor Bout, the "Merchant of Death" and inspiration for Nicolas Cage's "Lord of War," looks to be Russia's favoured target in a prisoner exchange for Griner.

On May 13, Russia paraded Griner through a Moscow tribunal in handcuffs and extended her pre-trial detention by a month, which some analysts regarded as an attempt to compel the U.S. to make a deal

Multiple state-owned Russian news outlets stated that day that Russia would trade Bout for Griner.

Tuesday's TASS piece includes a remark from Russia's Deputy Foreign Minister on Bout. Sergei Ryabkov was "urged to wait" until Griner's trial ended to make a deal.

Weber: “He's saying we can trial, convict, and pardon her next week if you give us Viktor Bout.” If you don't, we'll keep her in prison as long as we can to give you bad press.

Since the U.S. ruled Griner to be unfairly held, her family, friends, and WNBA peers have pushed the Biden Administration to bring her home safely. Shekera Griner, Griner's older sister, spoke last week at a rally and memorial in Houston.

Shekera hasn't seen Brit in 100 days. "It's been gut-wrenching for my family, her parents, my brothers, and me. This is terrible. We implore President Biden, Vice President Harris, and the Biden administration to send our sister home swiftly and safely.

These public pleadings may be Griner's way home, but they help Putin. Putin won't care about Griner's family, Weber said. He'll want more leverage in a bargain.

Putin has little power over the U.S., so he'll extract as much value as possible, Weber said.