WNBA’s Griner back in Russian court as trial continues

KHIMKI, Russia (AP) — American basketball star Brittney Griner faced a Russian court again on Friday as her drug possession trial resumed after pleading guilty to the charges.

KHIMKI, Russia (AP) — American basketball star Brittney Griner faced a Russian court again on Friday as her drug possession trial resumed after pleading guilty to the charges.

Griner’s defense attorneys presented evidence that the basketball player received clearance from Arizona health officials to use cannabis for chronic pain.

“The attending physician gave recommendations to Brittney for the use of medical cannabis. The authorization was issued on behalf of the Arizona Department of Health, ”said lawyer Maria Blagovolina, quoted by the agency. Russian press RIA Novosti.

On Friday, the defense also submitted tests they underwent as part of a doping control, according to the RIA-Novosti report. They detected no banned substances in his system.

The next hearing in the Griner case was scheduled for July 26.

Griner was arrested at the Russian capital’s Sheremetyevo airport in February when customs officers said they found vaping cartridges containing cannabis oil in her luggage. She admitted in court that she had the canisters, but said she had no criminal intent and that their presence in her luggage was due to hasty packing. She faces up to 10 years in prison.

In the Russian justice system, admitting guilt does not automatically end a trial.

Griner is one of America’s hottest female athletes, a star for the Phoenix Mercury and a two-time Olympic gold medalist.

US President Joe Biden and Secretary of State Antony Blinken have said they are doing everything possible to secure his release, as well as those of other Americans whom the United States considers “wrongfully detained” by Russia, including former Marine Paul Whelan.

However, Washington may have little influence over Moscow, due to strong animosity 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 United States after being convicted of conspiracy aimed at killing US citizens and aiding a terrorist. organization.

Russia has been agitating for years for Bout’s release. But the vast difference in the severity of their cases could make such a trade unpleasant for Washington. Others have suggested Griner could be swapped with Whelan, who is serving 16 years in Russia on an espionage conviction the United States has described as a setup.

The State Department’s designation of Griner as wrongfully detained puts his case under the supervision of its Special Presidential Envoy for Hostage Affairs, making him the government’s chief hostage negotiator. The ranking irritated Russia.

Asked about the possibility of Griner being exchanged for a Russian imprisoned in the United States, Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov, a senior Russian diplomat, noted that until the end of his trial “there is no reason formal or procedural to talk about new measures”. ”

Ryabkov warned that the American criticisms, including the description of Griner as wrongfully detained and the dismissive comments about the Russian justice system, “make it difficult to engage in a detailed discussion of any possible exchange.”

Griner’s detention was authorized until December 20, suggesting the trial could last for months. Griner’s attorneys, however, have said they expect it to end around early August.

The Associated Press

Carol N. Valencia