Russia trial of WNBA star Brittney Griner resumes

Russia trial of WNBA star Brittney Griner resumes

The court of the city of Khimki, on the outskirts of Moscow, resumed on Tuesday the hearing of the trial against the American basketball player Brittney Griner for drug possession and smuggling.

At the beginning of the hearing, in which Griner will be questioned, a representative of the US embassy felt bad and fainted when trying to leave the room, the official Russian agency RIA Nóvosti reported.

The 31-year-old basketball player, double world and Olympic champion with her country, was arrested last February at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport after customs officials found cannabis oil among her belongings, a substance prohibited in Russia.

Griner, who pleaded guilty to the crimes charged against him, explained the presence of cannabis oil in his luggage with the haste with which she packed his bags to travel to Russia and assured that she never intended to commit a crime.

Drug smuggling into Russia is punishable by up to 10 years in prison.

According to the Russian procedural code, the acknowledgment of guilt does not mean the end of the trial.

Both US President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris have spoken by phone with Griner’s wife, Cherelle, to assure her that they are working to free his wife as soon as possible, as well as other Americans “unjustly” imprisoned in Russia.

Moscow has declared its willingness to work with Washington on an exchange of prisoners between the two countries, which could include Griner, but recommended that the US refrain from any attempt to pressure on this matter.

According to US media, former US representative to the UN Bill Richardson plans to visit Russia in the coming weeks to try to secure the release of Griner and Paul Whelan, a former Marine serving a 16-year prison sentence for espionage.

According to some press versions, Russia and the United States are negotiating the exchange of the player for the Russian arms dealer Viktor But, known as the “merchant of death” and who is serving a sentence in a US prison.

But is serving 25 years in prison for, among other crimes, conspiring to kill US citizens and selling weapons to Colombia’s former FARC guerrilla organization.

One of But’s American lawyers, Steve Zissou, has stated that he is confident that during Richardson’s possible stay in Moscow “he will be clearly made to understand that any exchange of citizens must include Viktor But”.

Melissa Galbraith
Melissa Galbraith is the World News reporter for Globe Live Media. She covers all the major events happening around the World. From Europe to Americas, from Asia to Antarctica, Melissa covers it all. Never miss another Major World Event by bookmarking her author page right here.