American basketball star Brittney Griner returned to a Russian courtroom on Tuesday to face her lengthy trial on drug charges, which could see her face 10 years in prison if convicted.
The trial of the two-time Olympic gold medalist and standout Phoenix Mercury began on July 1, but only four sessions were held, some lasting just a few hours. In one of them, she admitted she was carrying vape canisters of cannabis oil when she was arrested at a Moscow airport in mid-February, but said she had no criminal intentions.
The slow trial and her five-month imprisonment have drawn intense criticism from teammates and supporters in the United States, who have officially declared her “wrongly imprisoned,” a label sharply opposed by Russian officials.
Griner was arrested amid high tensions between the US and Moscow before Russia deployed troops to Ukraine later that month. Some supporters claim she is being held as collateral in Russia, possibly for a prisoner exchange. American soccer star Megan Rapinoe said last week: “She is obviously being held as a political prisoner.”
But even after the conflict erupted, Washington and Moscow brokered a prisoner trade in April when American Trevor Reed, convicted of assaulting a police officer, was traded in exchange for Konstantin Yaroshenko, a Russian convicted of drug smuggling in the US was, was released .
Russia’s foreign ministry reacted sharply last week to US allegations that Griner was being wrongly imprisoned, saying that Russian laws should be respected.
“If a US citizen has been arrested in connection with drug smuggling and she doesn’t deny it, then it should be in accordance with our local Russian laws and not those of San Francisco, New York and Washington. ‘ said spokeswoman Maria Zakharova.
“If drugs are going to be legalized in the US, in a number of states, and have been for a long time, and now the whole country is becoming addicted to drugs, that doesn’t mean all other countries are going the same way,” she added.
Russian media have speculated that Griner could be swapped for prominent Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout, who is jailed in the United States, and that Paul Whelan, an American jailed in Russia for espionage, could also be involved in an exchange.
US officials have not commented on the prospects for such a trade. Russian officials said no exchange could be discussed until the court case against Griner was completed. It’s unclear how long the trial will last, but a court has authorized Griner’s detention until December 20.
Earlier court hearings included testimony from the director and captain of the Russian team that Griner played for in the off-season, along with written testimonies, including a doctor’s letter, saying he allowed her to use cannabis to treat pain.
https://nypost.com/2022/07/26/brittney-griner-trial-resumes-in-russia/ Brittney Griner’s trial continues in Russia