Brittney Griner detained: WNBA star pleads guilty

The Houston resident, who spoke through an interpreter, said he acted unintentionally because he was hastily packing, according to reports.

MOSCOW, Russia – Imprisoned American basketball star Brittney Griner pleaded guilty to drug charges during her trial in Russia on Thursday, according to multiple reports. His surprise guilty plea to drug possession and smuggling charges comes after more than five months in a Moscow prison.

In news reports, Griner pleaded guilty to the charges at a court hearing on Thursday. They said Griner, who spoke through an interpreter, said he acted involuntarily because he was hastily packing.

Griner is a Houston native who played collegiately at Baylor, leading them to the 2012 National Championship. She plays professionally for the Phoenix Mercury in the WNBA.

Griner was detained at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport in February after cigarette packs containing cannabis oil were found in his luggage. He faces up to 10 years in prison.

Before Thursday’s hearing, Russian police escorted Griner, handcuffed and dressed in a bright red T-shirt and sweatpants, past a crowd of reporters into the courtroom.

Elizabeth Rood, deputy chief of mission at the US Embassy in Moscow, told reporters after the hearing that she spoke with Griner in the courtroom and shared the letter read by President Joe Biden.

“He eats well, he can read and he does well in the conditions,” Rood said of Griner.

“I would like to reiterate the commitment of the US government at the highest level to the repatriation of Ms. Greener and all wrongfully imprisoned US citizens, as well as the commitment of the US Embassy in Moscow to protect and defend the interests of the United States. All US citizens detained or imprisoned in Russia,” said Rood.

The State Department designated him as a wrongful detainer and placed his case under the supervision of the president’s special envoy for hostage matters, effectively the government’s chief hostage negotiator.

However, Washington has not announced its strategy on the matter, and the US may have little leverage for a strong adversary against Moscow due to Russia’s military operations in Ukraine.

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov strongly responded to the US description of Briner as “wrongfully arrested”, warning that “the American side’s attempts to make noise in public… do not help to solve the issues in a practical way”.

Griner’s trial began last week, nearly five months after his arrest, amid mounting calls for Washington to do more to secure his release.

The White House said President Joe Biden called Griner’s wife on Wednesday to assure her that he was doing everything he could to secure the athlete’s release as soon as possible. They spoke after Biden read a letter from Griner in which he said he was afraid he would never come home.

Although Griner’s supporters initially kept a low profile, calls for US action grew after the first day of the trial.

The Rev. Al Sharpton, one of America’s most prominent black activists, urged Biden this week to hold a prayer meeting with Griner, saying, “Four months is too long for this to go on, and I hope the President will act on it. please come home.”

An organization called Win With Black Women sent a letter to Biden saying that Secretary of State Anthony Blinken “called Brittney’s wife Cherelle Griner and reassured her that Brittney’s safe return is a matter of personal priority; however, we are concerned that the rhetoric has not matched the action to date. We urge you to make a deal to bring Brittney home as soon as possible.”

Russian media have repeatedly speculated that Griner could be swapped for Viktor Bout, a Russian arms dealer nicknamed “The Merchant of Death,” who is serving a 25-year sentence in the United States for conspiring to kill US citizens. terrorist organization.

Russia has been campaigning for Bout’s release for years. But the vast disparity between Griner’s alleged crime and Bout’s global dealings in deadly weapons could make such an exchange unpalatable to Washington.

Others have suggested he could be swapped for former Marine and security director Paul Whelan, who is serving a 16-year prison sentence in Russia on espionage charges the US has repeatedly described as a set-up.

Russia shows no sign of backing down.

“This is a serious crime confirmed by incontrovertible evidence … Attempts to present the case as the illegal detention of an American are continuing,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexei Zaitsev said on Wednesday.

“The law was broken, and by the way, arguments about the innocent nature of Griner’s addiction, which is punishable in some US states, are inappropriate in this case,” he said.

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov warned on Thursday that “the American side’s attempts to make noise in public… do not help to solve the issues in a practical way.” U.S. criticism, including the description of Griner as wrongfully imprisoned and comments about Russia’s judicial system, “make it difficult to discuss any possible trade-offs in detail,” he said.

Ryabkov noted that until Griner’s trial is over, “there is no official or procedural reason to talk about any further steps.”

Brittney Griner detained: WNBA star pleads guilty

Source link Brittney Griner detained: WNBA star pleads guilty

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