Home Sports Brittney Griner: US basketball player goes on trial in Russia on drugs charges

Brittney Griner: US basketball player goes on trial in Russia on drugs charges

8
Brittney Griner: US basketball player goes on trial in Russia on drugs charges

WNBA star Brittney Griner goes on trial in Russia on drug charges four months after arrest.WNBA star Brittney Griner appeared in a Russian court on Friday, four months after she was arrested on cannabis possession charges at an airport while travelling to play for a Russian team.

The American basketball star has gone on trial in Russia charged with illegal cannabis possession. The three-time WNBA league champion was seen arriving handcuffed at a court in the town of Khimki, near Moscow on Friday afternoon. If charged, she faces up to ten years in a Russian prison. Ms. Griner, 31, was told at the hearing that she was being charged with intentionally importing narcotics into Russia. She spoke only to confirm that she understood the charges. The judge set the next hearing for July 7. 

Griner, who has played regularly in Russia and the US Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA), was arrested at a Moscow airport in February, allegedly with vape cartridges containing hashish oil in her luggage. The case takes place against a backdrop of high tension between Moscow and Washington over the conflict in Ukraine. US officials say Griner has been detained wrongfully.

Griner arrived at Khimki City Court, near Sheremetyevo Airport, in handcuffs soon after noon (local time), wearing a Jimi Hendrix T-shirt and sneakers without laces. Three employees of the US embassy, including deputy chief of mission Elizabeth Rood, were present in the courtroom. Griner sat in the defendant’s cage with a plastic bag of biscuits and a bottle of mineral water.

Griner said she was finding detention hard because she could not speak Russian, and that she was unable to keep up her fitness because she could do only general exercises such as stretching. Her lawyers declined to say how she planned to plead. 

“She is a bit worried because she has the trial and the sentencing in the close future. But she is a tough lady. I think she will manage,” lawyer Alexander Boykov said after the hearing.

Rood said the United States was working very hard to bring Griner home: “She asked me to convey that she is in good spirits and is keeping up the faith.”

Asked about the case, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov denied it was politically motivated.

“I can only operate with known facts, and the facts indicate that the eminent athlete was detained with illegal drugs that contained narcotic substances. There are articles in Russian legislation that provide for punishment for such crimes,” he told reporters. “Only the court can pass a verdict.”

US officials and a score of athletes have called for the release of Griner – or “BG” as she is known to basketball fans.

Griner’s detention also prompted concerns that Moscow could use the two-time Olympic gold medallist to negotiate the release of a high-profile Russian in US custody.

The Kremlin has said that Griner violated Russian laws and denied she was being held hostage amid Russia’s stand-off with the US.

Griner, a centre for the Phoenix Mercury, had played for UMMC Ekaterinburg in Russia during the WNBA off-season like several other US players offered lucrative contracts by the Russian Women’s Basketball Premier League.

However, some have left the Russian league amid Griner’s detention and Russia’s military intervention in Ukraine. Griner’s wife, Cherelle Griner, told CNN in an interview on Thursday evening that she was hoping for a meeting with US President Joe Biden.“I would love for him to tell me he cares,” Cherelle Griner said.

Author: Seyi Awoleye

Los-Angeles, CA, USA

seyiawoleye@yahoo.com