WNBA player Brittney Griner appears handcuffed in Russian court ahead of trial

Brittney Griner arrives to a hearing at the Khimki Court, outside Moscow

Two-time Olympic gold medalist Brittney Griner was briefly spotted on Monday (27 June) ahead of her trial in Russia.

The WNBA player has been detained in Russia since February, with police alleging that she was found in possession of vape cartridges containing cannabis oil.

A hearing is scheduled for Friday (July 1) where Griner’s trial will officially start. Her legal team told NPR that a judge has ordered Griner to be detained for the length of her trial.

The Phoenix Mercury player was spotted before a preliminary court session on Monday that was closed to the public. She was escorted by four security officers and a dog as she was led down a stairwell to the courtroom.

The hearing lasted less than an hour, after which the athlete was seen once more, leaving the courthouse to return to Russian custody where she has been kept for 130 days.

Griner was arrested on February 17 – a week before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Her detention in custody has since been extended, with a request for home detention being denied.

Moscow area airport authorities allegedly found cannabis vape cartridges in her luggage – an offence that can see prison sentences of up to 10 years.

Brittney Griner arrives to a hearing at the Khimki Court

US WNBA basketball superstar Brittney Griner arrives to a hearing at the Khimki Court (Photo by Kirill KUDRYAVTSEV / AFP) (Photo by KIRILL KUDRYAVTSEV/AFP via Getty Images)

According to sources, no US Embassy officials were present for Monday’s hearing, though an official told NPR that it was informed the session was a “closed administrative meeting” and that Embassy staff would be unable to attend.

American officials have planned to attend the trial when hearings officially begin.

Since being detained, there has been a public outcry for American embassy officials to aid in freeing Griner.

The Biden administration declared Griner as “wrongfully detained” by Russia in early May, saying that the US would “get aggressive” in ensuring she returns home.

US State Department Ned Price has called the case “problematic from top to bottom”.

“It is precisely why we have characterised Brittney Griner as an unlawful detainee,” he said in June.

Griner’s agent Lindsay Kagawa Colas believes the Phoenix Mercury star is being used as a “political pawn” amid tensions over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

“Her detention is inhumane and unacceptable,” Colas wrote. “She has not had a single phone call in her [then] 117 days of wrongful detention.”