Brittney Griner has been arrested in Russia. This could be a legitimate confusion on her part but it could also be a case of hostage-taking.
The Russian regime has been on the global news lately due to the suspension that its events, federations, bureaucrats, and sportspeople have faced suspensions from the sporting world in a cultural protest against the Russian Federation’s invasion of Ukraine. Concomitantly, a two-times US Olympic Champion, Brittney Griner, is held by Russian authorities. The situation is not clear.

Officially, Griner was arrested at an airport near Moscow when Russian customs authorities accused her of transporting cannabis oil in vape cartridges, which could make her liable to up to 10 years in prison. She was coming back to play with the UMMC Ekaterinburg, with which she is the current Euroleague Women’s Champion.

From the outside we cannot assume that this was not the case. Nor it is our role to do so. At the same time we have to remember the maxim of “innocent until proven guilty”, and also the horror of past cases of the Russian authorities detaining individuals for political reasons.

Just during these last days, it has been reported that 14,000 Russians have been detained in the last weeks due to the anti-war protests (Al Jazeera via OVD-Info). It is well known that Russia holds prisoners of conscience (Amnesty International).

It is not beyond imagination to think that detaining Griner could well be a case of hostage-taking in the middle of a situation when the United States of America -and dozens of its allies- are imposing sanctions on the country. 

Jason Rezaian (USA/IRI), a journalist that was unjustly detained in Tehran commented: “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.” (CNN)

For a great part of the world -including ourselves- it is inconceivable that a person could be sent to prison for possession of cannabis oil but that is the law in some countries, and one goes there knowing their laws. It is not impossible to think that Griner made an honest mistake bringing objects that are legal in her home country.

But at the moment, we also cannot be sure that this will not end up being a case of hostage-taking by a non-democratic regime. And our eyes should be there to pressure Russia and let it know that the world expects nothing less than fair treatment towards Griner.