The Russian court plans to start the trial of Brittney Griner on Friday, her lawyer says

Griner – who has been held in Russia since her arrest at a Moscow airport on allegations of attempted drug smuggling – attended the pre-trial hearing in person on Monday and arrived at the court handcuffed and flanked by guards in black vests, according to a photo obtained by AFP photographer Kirill Kudryavstev. She wore a gray t-shirt and glasses, as shown in the photo.

Boykov previously told CNN the hearing would be held behind closed doors at the Khimki court outside Moscow.

Griner, 31, a Phoenix Mercury player playing in the WNBA offseason in Russia, was arrested Feb. 17. Russian authorities claimed she had cannabis oil in her luggage and charged her with smuggling significant amounts of a narcotic, an offense carrying a penalty of up to 100 and 10 years in prison.

Griner’s detention, which has been repeatedly extended, has sparked a wave of support from dozens of organizations across the US, which have joined Cherelle Griner, wife of Brittney Griner, in urging President Joe Biden to secure an exchange deal with Russian authorities to release Griner and get him home safely as soon as possible.

Griner’s supporters have expressed concern that she could be used as a political pawn amid rising tensions over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
READ: Dozens of organizations sign letter urging President Biden to reach agreement on Brittney Griner’s release

More than 40 organizations — including the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, Human Rights Campaign, GLAAD, the National Urban League and the Women’s National Basketball Players Association — signed a letter to President Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris.

Families of Americans detained abroad are calling on Biden to take urgent action to free their loved ones

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke to Cherelle Griner last Wednesday, according to a senior State Department official. She said last week she hadn’t spoken to her wife since February 17.

“I have no higher priority than making sure that Americans who are being held illegally in one way or another around the world come home,” Sec said. Blinken told CNN’s State of the Union at Sunday’s G7 summit.

“That includes Paul Whelan, that includes Brittney Griner, that includes people in a number of other countries,” he added. Whelan is a US citizen arrested in Moscow in 2018 and arrested on espionage charges. He has denied the allegations.

“I can’t comment in detail on what we’re doing other than to say that this is an absolute priority,” Blinken said.

The US embassy in Moscow will send a US diplomat to Brittney Griner’s hearing on Friday, a US official told CNN.

A State Department spokesman reiterated that Griner was “wrongly detained” and said support for her and her family continues. “The U.S. government will continue to provide appropriate support to Ms. Griner and her family. We will continue to press for their release.”

Griner was named an honorary starter for the WNBA All-Star Game last week, with the All-Star Game scheduled to take place in Chicago on July 10th.

CNN’s Kylie Atwood contributed to this report.

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