Russian arrest of basketballer Brittney Griner dubbed ‘most audacious state hostage-taking’
A journalist and former captive has said the Russian arrest of American basketball player Brittney Griner is likely bogus.
It was reported in early March that the WNBA star had been detained after customs officials allegedly detected cannabis oil in her luggage at an airport near Moscow.
Details of Griner’s arrest have been scant, however the Russian Federal Customs Services has released a statement claiming a criminal case against the athlete has been opened, and that if convicted, she could face up to 10 years in a Russian prison.
Iranian-American journalist Jason Rezaian, who was detained in Iran’s notorious Evin Prison from 2014 to 2016, has said he believes Griner is “innocent of any crimes” until proven guilty.
Rezaian, a Washington Post reporter, told CNN: “I know from my own case that the supposed charges against me were not based in anything like reality, and they were used to perpetuate a narrative about why I was being held.
“I think that every time reporters repeat that narrative, we’re doing some of the dirty work of the hostage-takers for them. My attitude is Brittney Griner is innocent of any crimes until the world sees otherwise.”
Amid worries about the safety of Griner from US officials, Rezaian told CNN that the athlete may have to prepare to be detained in Russia for a while.
He told the publication: “It may turn out to be a marathon, not a sprint. You hope that it’s a sprint, but conserve your energy in a way that will benefit you throughout this ordeal.
“I tried to find things to laugh at every day because there’s certainly a lot of absurdity in these situations.
“That doesn’t take away from the horror and the terror of it, but the absurdity that a great American athlete is being held on unsubstantiated charges at the dawn of a cataclysmic war on the other side of the world? It is horrifying but it’s also farcical in its own way.”
Griner’s wife Cherelle has thanked people who have “reached out” about the athlete’s detention in Russia, stating that “there are no words to express this pain”.
She said in an Instagram post: “My hearts, our hearts, are all skipping beats every day that goes by without hearing from you. I miss your voice. I miss your presence.
“There are no words to express this pain. I’m hurting. We’re hurting. We await the day to love on you as a family.”