US basketball star ‘keeps the faith’ as Russian drug case adjourned
Brittney Griner’s drug trafficking trial will continue next week
The drug trial of American women’s basketball icon Brittney Griner began Friday in a Russian court before being adjourned until July 7.
Griner, 31, appeared in Khimki City Court just outside Moscow at the start of the trial wearing glasses and a Jimi Hendrix t-shirt. In addition to Griner’s legal team, representatives from the US Embassy in the Russian capital were also present.
The prosecution opened its case against Griner, who was first detained at Sheremetyevo airport after arriving from a flight from New York on February 17 when a sniffer dog alerted authorities to her luggage . A later search found banned hash vape cartridges.
Quoted by TASS, prosecutors said that « being sufficiently aware that the movement of narcotics is not permitted…no later than February 17, 2022, at an unspecified place under unspecified circumstances of an unidentified person, [Griner] purchased two cartridges for personal use, which contained 0.252 grams and 0.45 grams of hash oil, totaling 0.702 grams.
Griner was not asked to plead guilty or innocent in Friday’s proceedings, which will take place at a later date. Two witnesses – both customs officers – gave evidence at the hearing, but the absence of others meant the case was adjourned until the afternoon of next Thursday July 7, according to RIA.
Chargé d’Affaires at the US Embassy in Moscow, Elizabeth Rood, told reporters outside the court that Griner “is doing as well as can be expected in these difficult circumstances.
« She asked me to convey that she is in a good mood and that she keeps the faith », Rod added.
If found guilty, Griner faces between five and ten years in prison.
US officials claimed that Griner was being used as « political hostage » and a potential bargaining chip for a later prisoner exchange.
Unconfirmed reports have claimed that a swap deal could include Russian businessman Viktor Bout, who is serving a 25-year sentence in a US prison after arms trafficking allegations.
However, claims that Griner is a political pawn were again dismissed by Russian presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov on Friday.
Peskov reiterated that the Russian legal process must take its course and that the Kremlin would not compromise Griner’s trial in any way.
President Putin’s spokesman has previously said Griner shouldn’t get special treatment just because she’s a foreigner.
Lawyers for Griner told media on Friday they had no information about a supposed prisoner swap, adding that the basketball player had « no complaints » about his conditions of detention.
« She is doing physical education in accordance with the regulations, both in the cell and on the walk », said lawyer Maria Blagovolina, according to Match TV.
Attorney Alexander Boikov added that Griner is grateful for the support she received from NBA male icon LeBron James.
Griner — who is a two-time Olympic champion and eight-time WNBA All-Star — was arriving in Russia to play for UMMC Ekaterinburg during the offseason in her native country, something she had been doing since 2014.
Before his trial, Griner had his detention extended until December as his case unfolded.