Brittney Griner #42 of the Phoenix Mercury is on display during the game against the Indiana Fever at Indiana Farmers Coliseum on September 6, 2021 in Indianapolis, Indiana.
Michael Hickey | Getty Images
WASHINGTON — The State Department is still working to gain access to WNBA star Brittney Griner after Russian officials arrested her a month ago on charges of smuggling drugs into the country.
Griner’s arrest came days after Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered an invasion of Ukraine, sparking international backlash and a slew of punitive sanctions. The 31-year-old athlete has been charged with smuggling hash oil, a charge that could carry up to 10 years in prison.
Chief deputy spokeswoman Jalina Porter told reporters on a call Friday that US officials are “closely involved” in Griner’s case and are calling for “fair and transparent treatment” of US citizens detained in Russia. Porter declined to provide further details at the urging of reporters.
State Department spokesman Ned Price told MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell on Thursday that the Biden administration is “deeply concerned” about Griner’s case.
“We have repeatedly requested consular access to these detainees and have consistently been refused entry. Russia must abide by its legal obligations and allow us to provide consular services to US citizens detained in Russia,” Price said.
“We will continue to push for that, continue to ensure that Russia fulfills its international obligations. All the while, we will do everything we can to ensure that its rights are respected,” Price added.
On Thursday, a person close to the ongoing situation confirmed to NBC News that Griner was “OK” and that her Russian legal team met her several times a week during her detention.
The person clarified that once a preliminary investigation on Griner is completed, a trial date would be set.
If the investigation is not completed by May 19, there will be another hearing to determine an extension. Griner’s request for house arrest has been denied.
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