Brittney Griner to testify in Russian court as trial continues



CNN

American basketball star Brittney Griner is expected to testify in a Russian court on Wednesday in her ongoing drug trafficking trial, for which she faces up to 10 years in prison.

Griner’s attorney, Alexander Boykov, confirmed to CNN that the two-time Olympic gold medalist will testify, adding that prosecutors will also have the opportunity to interview her.

Griner has been detained in Russia since February, when authorities said they found cannabis oil in her luggage at a Moscow airport and accused the WNBA player – who plays in Russia during the league’s offseason – of smuggling large quantities of a narcotic substance.

Griner pleaded guilty in Khimki Regional Court near Moscow earlier this month, a decision the defense hopes will be considered by the court and possibly lead to a lesser sentence. But the US State Department has classified her as wrongfully detained and her supporters have called for her release, fearing she could be used as a political pawn amid Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The decision to plead guilty was solely up to Griner, a source close to her said. For weeks, Griner, her family, lawyers and experts discussed the decision at length, and given the reported 99% conviction rate in Russian criminal cases, Griner was asked to weigh all the factors, including a plea that could ultimately result in a shorter sentence. .

At the start of her trial, a prosecutor accused Griner of intentionally smuggling drugs into Russia, but Griner later told the court she had no intention of committing a crime, according to the agency. state press RIA Novosti. The cannabis oil was in her luggage, she said, because she had packed in a hurry.

Griner’s lawyers told Russian judges their client had been prescribed medical cannabis for ‘severe chronic pain’ and at a hearing on Tuesday – the fifth in the trial – they argued the cannabis oil was for medicinal and non-recreational purposes.

A narcologist, called as an expert witness for the defense, testified that it was likely based on Griner’s prescription, as “medical cannabis is a popular treatment specifically among athletes” outside of Russia, according to Maria Blagovolina, another Griner’s lawyer.

Boykov, however, stressed that the defense position was not that Griner was “allowed to import” banned substances into Russia, but they hoped to show the court “even in the United States, where it is allowed, that she used these substances occasionally as prescribed by a doctor, strictly for medical purposes to relieve pain.

“We continue to insist that, indiscreetly, in a hurry, she packed her suitcase and did not pay attention to the fact that substances authorized for use in the United States ended up in this suitcase and arrived in the Russian Federation,” Boykov said. .

Tuesday’s hearing, like previous ones, was attended by US Embassy Charge d’Affaires Elizabeth Rood. The trial is expected to wrap up early next month, Griner’s attorneys said.

Some have speculated that Griner could be freed in a prisoner swap similar to Trevor Reed, an American veteran who was held in Russia for three years before his release in April.

But before any potential prisoner swap, Griner was expected to be convicted and also admit wrongdoing, a senior US official previously told CNN.

Brittney Griner stands in a cage awaiting a court hearing.

Griner’s detention has become a focal point for top American athletes, including USWNT star Megan Rapinoe and four-time NBA champion Steph Curry who called on those who listen to him to stay focused on achieving of his release at last week’s ESPY Awards.

“As we hope for the best, we urge the entire global sports community to continue to stay energized on his behalf,” Curry said, when joined by WNBA stars Nneka Ogwumike and Skylar Diggins. -Smith to solve the problem.

“She is one of us, the team of athletes in this room tonight and all over the world. A team that has nothing to do with politics or world conflicts.

Griner’s wife, Cherelle Griner, spoke with President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris earlier this month after publicly criticizing the administration’s response to his wife’s detention.

Cherelle Griner said she was “grateful” for the call, but added that she would “stay concerned and candid” until his wife was home.

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