U.S. basketball participant Brittney Griner, who was detained at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport and later charged with unlawful possession of hashish, seems on inside a defendants’ cage earlier than a courtroom listening to in Khimki exterior Moscow, Russia August 2, 2022.
Evgenia Novozhenina | Reuters
U.S. basketball star Brittney Griner returns to a Russian courtroom on Thursday as her medication trial grinds in direction of a finale that might lead to a 10-year jail sentence after which a prisoner swap for one of many world’s most infamous arms sellers.
Griner, a two-time Olympic gold medallist and a Ladies’s Nationwide Basketball Affiliation (WNBA) star, was detained at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport on Feb. 17 with vape cartridges containing cannabis oil in her baggage.
Hashish is against the law in Russia for each medicinal and leisure functions.
The cartridges threw the 31-year-old Texan athlete into the geopolitical maelstrom triggered when President Vladimir Putin despatched troops into Ukraine on Feb. 24.
Throughout essentially the most strained U.S.-Russian relations because the 1962 Cuban missile disaster, U.S. President Joe Biden is underneath strain to intervene on behalf of detained People — together with Griner.
America has mentioned Griner was wrongfully detained and made what Secretary of State Antony Blinken referred to as a “substantial provide” to Moscow to alternate Russian prisoners for Americans held in Russia, together with Griner and former Marine Paul Whelan.
One supply conversant in the state of affairs mentioned that Washington was prepared to alternate convicted arms trafficker Viktor Bout, whose life helped encourage the 2005 Hollywood movie “Lord of Struggle”, starring Nicholas Cage.
Russian officers have mentioned a deal has not been reached. They argue that Griner — generally known as “BG” to basketball followers — violated the nation’s legal guidelines and must be judged accordingly.
The Kremlin has additionally repeatedly warned Washington towards resorting to megaphone diplomacy, or negotiations performed by press releases. They are saying this technique may derail the swap.
Griner’s lawyer mentioned on Tuesday that the trial ought to finish very quickly and that after the courtroom renders a verdict, a swap between Russia and america would develop into legally attainable.
Griner, who pleaded responsible however denied intending to interrupt Russian legal guidelines, has proven little emotion in courtroom. Her lawyer mentioned on Tuesday that Griner was each nervous and targeted because the trial neared its finish.
Carrying round-rimmed glasses and athletic clothes at each listening to, Griner listened to the proceedings by way of a translator and spoke quietly to her legal professionals by the bars of the defendant’s cage on the Khimki District Court docket exterior Moscow.
Earlier than taking a seat, Griner held up private images, together with a lot of her spouse Cherelle, whom Biden referred to as final month to guarantee that Washington was working to safe Griner’s launch.
Griner, chosen first total by the Phoenix Mercury within the 2013 WBNA draft, had flown to Russia to affix her crew, UMMC Ekaterinburg, for the playoffs after spending time at dwelling in america.
Like a number of different distinguished U.S. nationwide crew stars, Griner performed within the Russian Ladies’s Basketball Premier League through the WNBA offseason.
In her testimony final week, Griner expressed puzzlement as to how the vape cartridges had ended up in her baggage.
“I nonetheless do not perceive to this present day how they ended up in my bag,” she instructed the courtroom on July 27. “If I needed to guess on how they ended up in my baggage, I used to be in a rush packing.”
Griner had been prescribed medical marijuana in america to alleviate ache from power accidents, a remedy technique that’s widespread amongst elite athletes as a result of it has fewer uncomfortable side effects than some painkillers.