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Brittney Griner: US basketball star appears in Russian court on drug smuggling charges

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Griner, 31, a Phoenix Mercury participant who performs in Russia through the WNBA’s off season, was arrested February 17 at a Moscow airport, every week earlier than Russia invaded Ukraine.

Griner’s supporters and US officers say she is wrongfully detained and have known as for her launch as fears mount that she is getting used as a political pawn amid rising tensions between Russia and the US.

On the trial, Griner was accused by a prosecutor of smuggling lower than a gram of hashish oil in her baggage.

“Being sufficiently conscious that the motion of narcotic medication just isn’t allowed… no later than February 17, 2022 at an unspecified location below unspecified circumstances from an unidentified particular person [Griner] purchased two cartridges for private use, which contained 0.252 grams and 0.45 grams of hash oil, totaling 0.702 grams,” the prosecutor stated, in response to a TASS reporter within the corridor of the Khimki Metropolis Court docket.

The prosecution argues that Griner supposed to import the medication into Russia’s territory and put the prohibited substances right into a backpack and a suitcase, in response to TASS. Hashish oil is topic to manage in Russia and is classed as a narcotic drug.

The second listening to of the trial will happen on July 7.

Griner is escorted by a guard before a court hearing on July 1.

Some have speculated that Griner may very well be launched in a prisoner swap, however over the weekend US Secretary of State Antony Blinken refused to touch upon the matter.

Griner’s attorneys, Alexander Boykov and Maria Blagovolina, stated on Friday they had been unaware of any plans to trade Griner for a Russian prisoner held within the US.

“We now have no details about it, sadly,” the attorneys stated throughout an impromptu press convention.

In the course of the listening to, an worker of the Sheremetyevo airport customs providers was one of many two witnesses, the attorneys stated. He was interrogated on the circumstances of Griner’s detention and private search, the attorneys stated, including that they may not disclose any of the data that he revealed through the testimony.

When requested why Griner refused to talk on the costs in courtroom, the attorneys stated: “She has the fitting to take action later.

It's been 130 days since WNBA star Brittney Griner was detained in Russia and her trial is about to start. Her wife wants US officials to do more to bring her home

US Embassy Cost d’Affaires Elizabeth Rood, who attended Friday’s listening to, reiterated that Griner had been “wrongfully detained,” including that “the follow of wrongful detention is unacceptable wherever it happens and is a risk to the security of everybody touring, working, and dwelling overseas.”

She spoke to Griner within the courtroom. “She is doing in addition to might be anticipated in these tough circumstances and she or he requested me to convey that she is in good spirits and is maintaining the religion,” Rood stated.

“The US authorities, from the best ranges, is working arduous to deliver Brittney and all wrongfully detained US nationals dwelling,” she added.

Griner’s detention, which has been repeatedly prolonged, has sparked a wave of assist amongst dozens of organizations within the US which have joined Griner’s spouse, Cherelle, in urging President Joe Biden to strike an trade cope with Russian authorities to launch Griner and convey her dwelling safely as quickly as doable.

Chatting with CNN on Thursday, Cherelle Griner implored US officers to do extra to safe her wife’s release.

“It is actually, actually tough. This isn’t a scenario the place the rhetoric is matching the motion,” she stated. “I do must sadly push folks to guarantee that the issues they’re telling me can be matching their actions and so it has been the toughest factor to steadiness as a result of I am unable to let up. It is over 130 days and BG’s nonetheless not again.”

Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov stated the case just isn’t politically motivated throughout a convention name with reporters Friday.

Whereas the Kremlin can’t touch upon the course of the trial, Peskov stated, he emphasised that Griner was detained after carrying “unlawful medication that contained narcotic substances” which is punishable by the Russian regulation.

“Based mostly on what I stated, her arrest can’t be politically motivated,” Peskov added.

Griner was named an honorary WNBA All-Star Sport starter final week, with the All-Star Sport scheduled to happen on July 10 in Chicago. Her detention remains to be “robust on our group,” Phoenix Mercury head coach Vanessa Nygaard advised reporters earlier than the group’s sport Monday towards the Indiana Fever.

She expressed hope Griner will return dwelling quickly and that President Biden will “take the steps to make sure that she comes dwelling.”

CNN’s Kylie Atwood contributed to this report.