US basketball star Brittney Griner goes on trial in Russia on drug charges

Published July 2, 2022
US basketball player Brittney Griner, who was detained in March at Moscow's Sheremetyevo airport and later charged with illegal possession of cannabis, is escorted before a court hearing in Khimki outside Moscow, Russia on July 1, 2022. — Reuters/File
US basketball player Brittney Griner, who was detained in March at Moscow's Sheremetyevo airport and later charged with illegal possession of cannabis, is escorted before a court hearing in Khimki outside Moscow, Russia on July 1, 2022. — Reuters/File

KHIMKI: US basketball star Brittney Griner went on trial in a court on the outskirts of Moscow on Friday to face drug charges that could see her face up to 10 years in prison.

The case, which coincides with fraught relations between Moscow and Washington over the conflict in Ukraine, was brought after Russian authorities said they found vape cartridges containing hashish oil in Griner’s luggage at a Moscow airport in February.

Griner, a star in the US-based Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA), was arrested and charged with smuggling a large quantity of drugs.

The 31-year-old athlete was seen arriving at Khimki City Court in handcuffs shortly after noon Moscow time on Friday, wearing a Jimi Hendrix T-shirt and sneakers without laces, which are forbidden in Russian jails.

The prosecutor told Griner that she was being charged with intentionally transporting narcotics. Griner spoke to say she understood the charges.

Three employees of the US embassy, including deputy of chief of mission Elizabeth Rood, were present in the courtroom. Griner was seated in a cage with a zip-lock bag of cookies and a bottle of mineral water.

Griner told a Reuters reporter she was finding detention hard because she was unable to speak Russian, and that she was unable to fully keep up with physical fitness, only general exercises such as stretching.

Her lawyers told Reuters they would not say yet whether or not she would be pleading guilty.

Asked about the case, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov denied it was politically motivated.

Published in Dawn, July 2nd, 2022

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