Trial for WNBA star Brittney Griner begins in Russian court

Published:Mar 9, 202409:49
Trial for WNBA star Brittney Griner begins in Russian court

American basketball star Brittney Griner went on trial Friday, 4 1/2 months after her arrest on prices of possessing hashish oil whereas returning to play for a Russian group, in a case that unfolded amid tense relations between Moscow and Washington.

The Phoenix Mercury middle and two-time U.S. Olympic gold medalist was arrested in February at Moscow's Sheremetyevo Airport after police mentioned she was carrying vape canisters with hashish oil. She might resist 10 years in jail if convicted of large-scale transportation of medication.

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Griner, 31, was escorted into the courtroom within the Moscow suburb of Khimki whereas handcuffed and carrying a Jimi Hendrix T-shirt. At a closed-door preliminary listening to Monday, her detention was prolonged for an additional six months, to Dec. 20, and her subsequent court docket session was set for July 7.

Fewer than 1% of defendants in Russian prison instances are acquitted, and in contrast to within the U.S., acquittals might be overturned.

Her case comes at an awfully low level in Moscow-Washington relations. Griner was arrested lower than every week earlier than Russia despatched troops into Ukraine, which aggravated already excessive tensions between the 2 nations. The U.S. then imposed sweeping sanctions on Moscow, and Russia denounced the U.S. for sending weapons to Ukraine.

Elizabeth Rood, U.S. cost d’affaires in Moscow, was in court docket and mentioned she spoke with Griner, who “is doing in addition to might be anticipated in these troublesome circumstances.”

“The Russian Federation has wrongfully detained Brittney Griner,” Rood mentioned. “The apply of wrongful detention is unacceptable wherever it happens and is a risk to the security of everybody touring, working, and residing overseas.”

She mentioned the U.S. authorities, from its highest ranges, "is working onerous to deliver Brittney and all wrongfully detained U.S. nationals dwelling safely.”

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov on Friday denied politics performed a job in Griner's detention and prosecution.

“The info are that the well-known athlete was detained in possession of prohibited remedy containing narcotic substances,” Peskov instructed reporters. “In view of what I've mentioned, it will possibly’t be politically motivated," he added.

Griner’s supporters had saved a low profile in hopes of a quiet decision till Might, when the State Division reclassified her as wrongfully detained and shifted oversight of her case to its particular presidential envoy for hostage affairs — successfully the U.S. authorities’s chief negotiator.

Griner’s spouse, Cherelle, has urged President Joe Biden to safe her launch, calling her “a political pawn.”

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“It was good to see her in a few of these photographs, however it’s robust. Each time’s a reminder that their teammate, their good friend, is wrongfully imprisoned out of the country,” Phoenix Mercury coach Vanessa Nygaard mentioned Monday.

The coach hoped that Biden would "take the steps to make sure she comes dwelling.”

Griner’s supporters have inspired a prisoner swap just like the one in April that introduced dwelling Marine veteran Trevor Reed in trade for a Russian pilot convicted of drug trafficking conspiracy.

Russian information media have repeatedly raised hypothesis that she could possibly be swapped for Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout, nicknamed “the Service provider of Demise,” who's serving a 25-year sentence on conviction of conspiracy to kill U.S. residents and offering help to a terrorist group.

Russia has agitated for Bout’s launch for years. However the huge discrepancy between Griner’s case — which includes alleged possession of vape cartridges containing hashish oil — and Bout’s world dealings in lethal weapons might make such a swap unpalatable to the U.S.

Others have recommended that she could possibly be traded in tandem with Paul Whelan, a former Marine and safety director serving a 16-year sentence on an espionage conviction that america has repeatedly described as a setup.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, when requested Sunday on CNN whether or not a joint swap of Griner and Whelan for Bout was being thought of, sidestepped the query.

“As a normal proposition ... I've bought no greater precedence than ensuring that People who're being illegally detained in a technique or one other all over the world come dwelling,” he mentioned. However he mentioned he couldn't remark “in any element on what we’re doing, besides to say that is an absolute precedence.”

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