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Brittney Griner appears in Russian court; trial to start July 1

The WNBA star has been detained in Russia since Feb. 17 after authorities at an airport said they found cannabis vape cartridges in her bag.
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The start date for WNBA star Brittney Griner's trial in Moscow has been set for July 1, more than four months after she was arrested at a Moscow airport for cannabis possession.

The date was revealed Monday after Griner, 31, appeared in a Moscow court for a preliminary hearing ahead of trial. The Phoenix Mercury center was also ordered to remain in custody for the duration of her criminal trial.

Griner could be seen being escorted by police down a corridor of the Khimki City Court in visuals captured by The Associated Press.

The hearing, which was held behind closed doors, had been expected to address procedural issues.

Griner was arrested on Feb. 17 at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport less than a week before Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine. She was accused of having vape cartridges containing oil derived from cannabis after a search of her luggage.

She could face 10 years in prison if convicted on charges of large-scale transportation of drugs. Less than 1% of defendants in Russian criminal cases are acquitted and acquittals can be overturned, according to The Associated Press.

“We have no higher priority than the safety and security of U.S. citizens overseas,” a State Department spokesperson said when asked about Griner’s court appearance and the announcement of her July 1 trial date. “The Department of State has determined that the Russian Federation has wrongfully detained U.S. citizen Brittney Griner. The U.S. government will continue to provide appropriate support to Ms. Griner and her family. We will continue to ​press for her release.”

In May, the State Department reclassified Griner as wrongfully detained, turning oversight of her case over to its special presidential envoy for hostage affairs.

Griner has won two Olympic gold medals, a WNBA championship for the Mercury, with whom she signed in 2013, and a national title at Baylor University. In 2014, she also became the first player to slam dunk in WNBA playoff history.

Griner, who is a lesbian, has also long been considered a legend in LGBTQ sports history.

Her absence was marked by the WNBA, which honored her by placing her initials and number, 42, on all 12 arena courts for the 2022 season.

League Commissioner Cathy Engelbert recently named Griner an honorary starter at the WNBA All-Star Game, which is scheduled to take place on July 10 in Chicago.