Politics

U.S. officials continue to press Russia for access to WNBA star Brittney Griner

Key Points
  • The State Department is still working to get access to WNBA star Brittney Griner after she was arrested on accusations of smuggling drugs into the country.
  • The 31-year-old professional athlete is being accused of smuggling hashish oil, a charge that carries up to 10 years in prison.
  • Griner's request to be transferred to house arrest has been denied.
Brittney Griner #42 of the Phoenix Mercury is seen 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 get access to WNBA star Brittney Griner after Russian officials arrested her on accusations of smuggling drugs into the country a month ago.

Griner's arrest came days after Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered an invasion of Ukraine, triggering international backlash and a slew of punishing sanctions. The 31-year-old professional athlete has been accused of smuggling hashish oil, a charge that carries up to 10 years in prison.

Jalina Porter, principal deputy spokeswoman for the State Department, told reporters on a call Friday that U.S. officials are "closely engaged" on Griner's case and are calling for "fair and transparent treatment" of American citizens detained in Russia. Porter declined to provide further details when pressed by 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 asked for consular access to these detainees and have consistently been denied access. Russia must abide by its legal obligations and allow us to provide consular services for U.S. citizens detained in Russia," Price said.

"We're going to continue to press for that, to continue to see to it that Russia lives up to its international obligations. All the while, we're going to do everything we can to see to it that her 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 has met her multiple times a week during the course of her detention.

The person clarified that once a pretrial investigation on Griner has concluded a trial date would be set.

If the investigation is not finished by May 19, there will be another hearing to determine an extension. Griner's request to be transferred to house arrest has been denied.

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