WNBA star Brittney Griner back in Russian court as trial resumes

KHIMKI, Russia — A lawyer for WNBA star Brittney Griner, who is jailed on drug-related charges in Russia, presented a doctor’s letter to a court on Friday recommending that she use cannabis to treat pain.

Griner, a two-time Olympic gold medalist and standout for the Phoenix Mercury, was arrested at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport in February after customs officials said they found vape canisters containing cannabis oil in her luggage. If convicted of drug trafficking, she faces up to ten years in prison.

Griner admitted to possessing the canisters in court last week but said she had no criminal intent and claimed the canisters’ presence was due to hasty packing. In the Russian judicial system, a trial does not automatically end with an admission of guilt.

Since the guilty plea, her court sessions have focused on personal and written testimonies of her good character and athletic ability.

“The attending physician gave Brittney recommendations for the use of medicinal cannabis. The approval was granted on behalf of the Arizona Department of Health,” said attorney Maria Blagovolina.

The defense also on Friday filed tests it underwent as part of an anti-doping check that found no prohibited substances in its system.

The next hearing of Griner’s case was scheduled for July 26.

“In the hearings yesterday and today, it was very clear how much respect and admiration both in the United States and here in Russia, where Miss Griner has played basketball for the past seven years, not only for her professional accomplishments but also for her character and integrity US Embassy Chargé d’Affaires Elizabeth Rood said outside the courthouse in the Moscow suburb of Khimki, where the airport is located.

The director and team captain of UMMC Ektaerinburg, for which Griner plays in the off-season, testified on Thursday for her.

US President Joe Biden and Secretary of State Antony Blinken have said they are doing everything in their power to secure her release, as well as other Americans the US considers “wrongly imprisoned” by Russia, including former Marine Paul Whelan, serving 16 years on a spy conviction.

However, Washington may have little leverage over Moscow because of strong hostility over its military operation in Ukraine.

Russian media have speculated that Griner could be swapped for Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout, nicknamed the “Dealer of Death,” who is serving a 25-year sentence in the US after being convicted of conspiring to murder US citizens and provide aid to one Terrorists had been convicted organization.

Russia has been campaigning for Bout’s release for years. But the wide discrepancy in the seriousness of their cases could make such a deal unpalatable to Washington. Others have suggested Griner could be traded alongside Whelan, who is serving 16 years in Russia on a spy conviction the US has described as a trap.

The State Department’s designation of Griner as a wrongfully imprisoned puts her case under the oversight of the President’s Special Envoy for Hostage Affairs, effectively the government’s chief hostage negotiator. The classification irritated Russia.

Asked whether Griner could be swapped out for a Russian jailed in the US, Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov, the senior Russian diplomat, noted that until the end of their trial, “there are no formal or procedural grounds to discuss any further steps.” speak. “

Ryabkov warned that US criticism, including describing Griner as wrongly imprisoned and derogatory comments about Russia’s judicial system, “makes it difficult to engage in a detailed discussion of a possible replacement.”

Griner’s detention was granted until December 20, suggesting the process could take months. However, Griner’s attorneys said they expect to close in early August.

https://www.espn.com/wnba/story/_/id/34246519/wnba-star-brittney-griner-back-russian-court-trial-resumes WNBA star Brittney Griner back in Russian court as trial resumes

Emma Bowman

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