The trial of American basketball star Brittney Griner in a Russian court on Tuesday focused on testimony that marijuana, although illegal in Russia, is considered in other countries to have legal drug use.
Griner has admitted that he was carrying a vape canister containing cannabis oil when he was arrested in February at a Moscow airport, but he maintains that he had no criminal intent and that the canister ended up in his baggage by accident due to hasty packing.
“We’re not arguing that Brittney brought him here as medicine. We are still saying that he accidentally brought him here because he was in a hurry,” defense attorney Alexander Boykov said after a session in which a Russian neuropsychologist testified about the worldwide use of medicinal marijuana.
“The Russian public should know, and the Russian courts should first know, that it is not being used for recreational purposes in the United States. Prescribed by a doctor,” he said.
Griner, a two-time Olympic gold medalist who played for the WNBA Phoenix Mercury, faces up to 10 years in prison if convicted. The medical testimony and Griner’s admission that he had the tube were aimed at giving him a light sentence.
“There are many mitigating factors. So we hope the court will consider it. And the courts in Russia, in fact, have very broad discretion with regard to the sentence,” said Maria Blagovolina, another of Griner’s lawyers.
The trial of the two-time Olympic gold medalist began on July 1 but only five sessions have been held, some of which lasted only about an hour.
The slow-paced trial and five months of Griner’s detention have sparked strong criticism among teammates and supporters in the United States, who officially declared him “wrongly detained,” a designation that Russian officials vehemently rejected.
Elizabeth Rood, the US embassy’s attorney, attended Tuesday’s court session. Griner “confirms that he is well and can also be expected under these circumstances,” he told reporters.
Griner was arrested in February amid rising US-Moscow tensions ahead of Russia sending troops to Ukraine later that month. Some supporters argue he was held in Russia as a pawn, possibly for a prisoner swap. US soccer star Megan Rapinoe last week said “she is being held as a political prisoner, of course.”
Russia’s foreign ministry last week denied US claims that Griner was wrongfully detained and said Russian law must be respected.
“If a US citizen is taken in connection with the fact that he is smuggling drugs, and he does not deny this, then this should be commensurate with our local Russian laws, and not with those adopted in San Francisco, New York and Washington,” the spokesperson said. Maria Zakharova.
“If drugs were legalized in the United States, in a number of states, and this was done for a long time and now the whole country is going to become drug addicts, this doesn’t mean that all other states are following the same path,” he added.
Russian media speculated that Griner could be exchanged for prominent Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout, who is imprisoned in the United States, and that Paul Whelan, an American imprisoned in Russia for espionage, might also be involved in the swap.
US officials have not commented on the prospects for such a trade. Russian officials said no exchange could be discussed until the conclusion of legal proceedings against Griner. It is not clear how long the trial will last, but the court has allowed Griner’s detention until December 20.
Previous trial sessions had included character-witness testimony from the director and captain of the Russia team where Griner played in the off-season, along with written testimony including a doctor’s letter saying he had allowed him to use marijuana for pain medication.
Brittney Griner’s legal team argues marijuana has a legitimate medical use | Brittney Griner
Source link Brittney Griner’s legal team argues marijuana has a legitimate medical use | Brittney Griner