But it wasn’t any kind of incredulity that she’d been arrested accused of possession of some cannabis oil at an airport near Moscow, more that any western media would relay the details of her alleged crime as if it was fact.
“This is being reported as if people are taking these allegations seriously,” he told CNN. “I think that it’s a huge mistake to report these allegations as if they’re true or even are likely to be true.”
Based on the limited information that has been provided by the Russian Federal Customs Service and state media, Franks is very concerned about the predicament that Griner now finds herself to be in.
“This has a lot of hallmarks of a very wrongful and arbitrary detention,” he explained. “I found the video from the Russian customs service odd. They’re parading her before cameras. The mugshot was completely unnecessary and asinine.”
The Russian Customs Service claims that Griner was ‘smuggling significant amounts of narcotic substances’ and says that a criminal case is underway. A potential jail sentence of 10 years has been mentioned.
“They’re making her out to sound like a drug kingpin. I think that it is unlikely that Ms. Griner will get a fair trial,” concludes Franks, “because nobody gets a fair trial in Russia. It’s a rigged game.”
In 2014, the American Iranian journalist Jason Rezaian was detained in Tehran. He couldn’t have known it at the time, but he was in for a long stay at Iran’s notorious Evin Prison: 544 days.
The Washington Post reporter was eventually released in January 2016, and in Griner’s case he sees many parallels to his own. “It’s the most audacious hostage taking by a state imaginable,” Rezaian 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.”
Like Franks, Rezaian cautions against repeating the allegations against Griner verbatim.
“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,” adds Rezaian.
It’s still not exactly clear when Griner was apprehended in Russia, but it was some time in February, as she was returning from the States to compete for UMMC Ekaterinburg in the Russian basketball league.
It’s Griner’s seventh season in Russia, where she plays during the off-season in North America. News of her predicament didn’t arrive in the US until March 5, when Russia revealed that they were holding her.
Only then did Griner’s wife, Cherelle, begin writing about it on Instagram. “There are no words to express this pain,” she said. “I’m hurting, we’re hurting.”
If she can indeed be classified as a ‘hostage,’ Griner will join an unenviable club of around more than 50 American citizens who are currently held hostage or wrongfully detained overseas.
Campaigners have been working to free Americans Reed and Paul Whelan, who are both in Russia.
Whilst acknowledging that Griner’s family have been placed under an enormous amount of emotional stress, Rezaian believes they should have spoken up sooner.
“They made the same…