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WASHINGTON (NEXSTAR) – Trial has begun for United States basketball star Brittney Griner, who has been held in Russia for months on drug charges. Pressure is now growing for the U.S. government to get her released.
The WNBA star was in handcuffs when she walked into her trial on Friday. Her attorney, Alexander Boykov, briefly spoke with reporters outside of the courthouse.
“She’s a tough tough lady and I think we’ll manage,” Boykov said.
Griner was arrested at an airport in Moscow back in February. Russian police accused her of violating drug laws by carrying vape cartridges containing cannabis oil.
If convicted, the WNBA standout is facing years in prison.
She’s been classified by the U.S. government as wrongfully detained. U.S. Embassy official Elizabeth Rood says leaders are fighting for her release.
“The United States government at the very highest levels is working very hard to bring Ms. Griner, as well as all wrongfully detained U.S. citizens, safely home,” Rood said.
Many lawmakers and advocates worry Griner is being used as a political pawn at a time when the U.S. relationship with Russia is extremely tense. Victoria Kirby York with the National Black Justice Coalition says Griner is not being treated fairly.
“It’s clear that the charge that she’s some kingpin drug trafficker does not fit the evidence of the case,” Kirby York said.
Her organization is calling on the government to do more for Griner. They’re also asking for President Joe Biden to sit down and talk to Brittney’s wife Cherelle.
“We have to continue to put the pressure on President Biden to do what it takes,” Kirby York said.
U.S. leaders are keeping negotiation details private but promise they are doing what they can for detainees.
“Our embassy has no higher priority,” Rood said.
Supporters of Griner promise they won’t give up.
“We owe it to her to do all that we can as a nation, as a people and ads a government to ensure that she’s brought home,” Kirby York said.
Griner’s next court date is set for July 7.