MOSCOW – American basketball star Brittney Griner appeared in a Moscow area court to be tried on Friday, about 4 and a half months after she was arrested for cannabis possession at an airport while traveling to play for a Russian team.
Griner was arrested in February at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport. Police said he was carrying vape cans with cannabis oil. The Phoenix Mercury center and two-time U.S. Olympic gold medalist could face up to 10 years in prison if convicted of large-scale drug transportation.
Less than 1% of defendants in Russian criminal cases are acquitted, and unlike the United States, acquittals can be overturned.
At a preliminary hearing behind closed doors on Monday in the Moscow suburb of Khimki, Griner’s detention lasted for another six months, until December 20.
The athlete’s arrest and trial come at an extraordinarily low point in Moscow-Washington relations. Griner was arrested less than a week before Russia sent troops to Ukraine, aggravating already high tensions between the two countries.
The invasion led to widespread sanctions imposed by the United States, and Russia denounced the US for sending weapons to Ukraine.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov denied on Friday that politics played a role in Griner’s arrest and prosecution. .
“The facts are that the famous athlete was arrested in possession of banned drugs that contained narcotics,” Peskov told reporters. “In view of what I said, you can’t be politically motivated,” he added.
Griner’s supporters kept a low profile in hopes of a peaceful settlement, until May, when the State Department reclassified her as illegally detained and transferred oversight of her case to her special presidential envoy for hostage matters, effectively the government’s chief negotiator. American.
Griner’s wife, Cherelle, urged President Joe Biden to secure her release, calling her “a political pawn.”
“It was nice to see her in some of those pictures, but it’s hard. It’s always a reminder that his teammate, his friend, is unfairly imprisoned in another country, ”Phoenix Mercury coach Vanessa Nygaard said Monday.
The coach hoped Biden would “take steps to make sure he gets home.”
Griner supporters encouraged a prisoner exchange like the one in April that brought home Navy veteran Trevor Reed in exchange for a Russian pilot convicted of drug trafficking conspiracy.
Russian media have repeatedly speculated that it could be exchanged for Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout, nicknamed “the death dealer”, who is serving a 25-year sentence for being convicted of conspiracy to kill American citizens and help an organization. terrorist. .
Russia has been agitated for years over Bout’s release. But the large discrepancy between the Griner case, which involves alleged possession of vape cartridges containing cannabis oil, and Bout’s global dealings in deadly weapons could make that exchange unpleasant for the United States.
Others suggested it could be changed in conjunction with Paul Whelan, a former director of Navy and security serving a 16-year sentence for an espionage conviction the United States has repeatedly described as a facility.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, when asked on Sunday on CNN if a joint Griner and Whelan exchange for Bout was being considered, evaded the question.
“As a general proposal … I have no higher priority than to make sure that Americans who are being illegally detained one way or another around the world return home,” he said. But he said he could not comment “in any detail on what we are doing, except to say that this is an absolute priority.”
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The trial against the American basketball star begins in the Moscow area court
Source link The trial against the American basketball star begins in the Moscow area court