US demands Russia to allow Brittney Griner to be released from detention

The United States intensified its efforts Friday to gain consular access for Brittney Griner.

US demands Russia to allow Brittney Griner to be released from detention

Griner is a WNBA star and was detained in Russia under allegations of drug smuggling. Griner is a member of a Russian-backed prison monitoring group that said Griner was doing well behind bars.

Ekaterina Kalugina, who spoke with The Associated Press Friday, said that she visited Griner Monday at the pretrial facility outside Moscow and spoke to her using the assistance of a cellmate who speaks Russian as well as English and served the interpreter.

Kalugina stated that the Phoenix Mercury star is in a good physical condition. She is also holding up well. The legal drama comes amid tensions between Russia and America over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Kalugina is part of the public monitoring committee that visits Russian prisons. These commissions are located all over Russia and present themselves as independent, but seldom challenge Russian authorities on important issues.

Kalugina stated that Griner's lawyers visited her frequently and brought her care packages, which include personal items and food. However, she had not yet met with a U.S. consul.

Friday's statement by the State Department demanded Griner's access. Griner is a professional Russian player during the WNBA offseason.

"We are involved in this case and in frequent communication with Brittney Griner’s legal team. It stated that the Russian government must provide consular access for all U.S. citizens detained in Russia, even those in pre-trial, and we insist on this."

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It stated that it had repeatedly requested consular access for these detainees, but was denied.

Griner was taken into custody after she arrived at Moscow's airport in February. Russian authorities claimed that her luggage contained vape cartridges containing oil derived from marijuana. This could lead to a maximum sentence of 10 years imprisonment.

Russian state news agency Tass reported that Griner's pretrial detention was extended by a court to May 19.

Kalugina stated that Griner was very kind to her when she visited the facility. She said that she would get an hour per day in an exercise area.

Kalugina stated that Griner is being held in the same facility where Naama Issachar (an Israeli woman) spent time before Russian President Vladimir Putin pardoned them in 2020. Russian authorities claimed that they discovered hashish in Issachar’s luggage as she was traveling between Moscow and India, the same airport Griner was held. After nine months in jail, Issachar was convicted of the crime and sentenced to seven-and-half years imprisonment.

Griner's legal team quietly sought her release, but has refused to talk about the case publicly since her arrest earlier this month.

A small number of U.S. citizens are held in foreign prisons and imprisoned. This designation gives them extra government attention and puts them under the jurisdiction of the Special Presidential Envoy to Hostage Affairs at State Department. Griner's case has yet to be included in this category by the U.S. government.

Griner isn't the only American being held in Russia. In 2020, Trevor Reed, a Marine veteran, was sentenced to nine-years in prison on charges that he attacked police officers in Moscow. Paul Whelan, a Michigan corporate security officer, is currently serving a 16 year sentence for espionage allegations that his family and U.S. government claim are false. U.S. officials publicly called on Moscow to release them.

Date Of Update: 01 May 2022, 04:52

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