Brittney Griner arrest: Ex-Pentagon official questions validity of accusations

Britney Griner has been held in Russia for more than a month over allegations she was carrying vape cartridges containing oils derived from cannabis through a Moscow airport in February.

Evelyn Farkas, the former deputy assistant secretary of defense, told NBC’s "TODAY" on Thursday it is unclear whether the WNBA star actually had those items on her when she was traveling back to Russia.

"We don’t know whether she brought these hash vaping items into Russia or not. The Russians are notorious for planting drugs and other things on Americans," Farkas said.

U.S. State Department spokesperson Ned Price said on CNN on Wednesday that an official from the U.S. Embassy was able to see the Phoenix Mercury center recently and she was said to be "in good condition." The Russian government allowed the U.S. to give consular access to Griner weeks after her arrest was reported.

MORE: WNBA star Brittney Griner's wife thanks fans for their support, asks for privacy after player's arrest

Griner is just one of the Americans currently held in Russia. Paul Whelan, a U.S. Marine, received a 16-year sentence on espionage charges in 2020. Trevor Reed, another U.S. Marine, received a nine-year sentence for allegedly striking a Russian police officer in 2019. Both men deny the charges.


PHOENIX, AZ - AUGUST 31: Brittney Griner #42 of the Phoenix Mercury attempts a free-throw shot against the Seattle Storm during game three of the WNBA Western Conference Finals at Talking Stick Resort Arena on August 31, 2018 in Phoenix, Arizona. The

"Russia has a horrendous human rights record and they’re in a position to release a lot of people being held against their will, not just those three Americans," Farkas said on "TODAY."

Griner could face up to 10 years in a Russian prison if convicted.

Russian law expert Peter Maggs of the University of Illinois College of Law predicted that her pending legal case could result in possible time spent at a labor camp, or a complete dismissal and exportation from the country.

"You're talking about five years, not jail time, but a labor camp," he told the Associated Press. "One thing I find a little worrisome is this extension of her preliminary holding from two months to three months, because you have to go to a higher authority to get it lengthened."

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