MOSCOW (AP) — Shackled and searching cautious, WNBA star Brittney Griner was ordered to stand trial Friday by a courtroom close to Moscow on hashish possession costs, about 4 1/2 months after her arrest at an airport whereas returning to play for a Russian group.
The Phoenix Mercury middle and two-time U.S. Olympic gold medalist additionally was ordered to stay in custody throughout her felony trial. Griner may face 10 years in jail if convicted on costs of large-scale transportation of medicine. Fewer than 1% of defendants in Russian felony instances are acquitted, and in contrast to in the U.S., acquittals will be overturned.
At Monday’s closed-door preliminary listening to on the courtroom in the Moscow suburb of Khimki, Griner’s detention was prolonged for an additional six months. Photos obtained by The Associated Press confirmed the 31-year-old in handcuffs and searching straight forward, in contrast to a earlier courtroom look the place she stored her head down and coated with a hood.
Her detention and trial come at a very low level in Moscow-Washington relations. She was arrested at Sheremetyevo Airport lower than every week earlier than Russia despatched troops into Ukraine, which aggravated already-high tensions with sweeping sanctions by the United States and Russia’s denunciation of U.S. weapon provides to Ukraine.
Amid the tensions, Griner’s supporters had taken a low profile in hopes of a quiet decision, till May, when the State Department reclassified her as wrongfully detained and shifted oversight of her case to its particular presidential envoy for hostage affairs — successfully the U.S. authorities’s chief negotiator.
Griner’s spouse, Cherelle, urged President Joe Biden in May to safe her launch, calling her “a political pawn.”
Her supporters have inspired a prisoner swap just like the one in April that introduced dwelling Marine veteran Trevor Reed in change for a Russian pilot convicted of drug trafficking conspiracy.
Russian information media have repeatedly raised hypothesis that she could possibly be swapped for Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout, nicknamed “The Merchant of Death,” who’s serving a 25-year sentence on conviction of conspiracy to kill U.S. residents and offering help to a terrorist group.
Russia has agitated for Bout’s launch for years. But the discrepancy between Griner’s case — she allegedly was discovered in possession of vape cartridges containing hashish oil — and Bout’s world dealings in lethal weapons may make such a swap unpalatable to the U.S.
Others have prompt that she could possibly be traded in tandem with Paul Whelan, a former Marine and safety director serving a 16-year sentence on an espionage conviction that the United States has repeatedly described as a set-up.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, requested Sunday on CNN whether or not a joint swap of Griner and Whelan for Bout was being thought of, sidestepped the query.
“As a general proposition … I have got no higher priority than making sure that Americans who are being illegally detained in one way or another around the world come home,” he mentioned. But “I can’t comment in any detail on what we’re doing, except to say this is an absolute priority.”
Any swap would apparently require Griner to first be convicted and sentenced, then apply for a presidential pardon, Maria Yarmush, a lawyer specializing in worldwide civil affairs, advised Kremlin-funded TV channel RT.