Brittney Griner, the American basketball star detained in Russia on drug costs, instructed a courtroom Wednesday that she had been tossed right into a bewildering authorized system with little rationalization of what was occurring and what she would possibly do to attempt to defend herself.
Ms. Griner described arriving in Russia after an exhausting 13-hour flight — and shortly after recovering from Covid — and discovering herself in an interrogation by which a lot of what was being mentioned remained untranslated. She mentioned she was additionally instructed to signal papers with no rationalization of what they have been.
It was her first court docket testimony about her arrest in a case that has taken on outsize significance due to the warfare in Ukraine. The battle has created the deepest rift between the United States and Russia powers for the reason that finish of the Cold War, and the tense environment on the courthouse mirrored the fraught geopolitical second.
When Ms. Griner arrived for the listening to sporting a long-sleeved T-shirt, she had her wrists shackled in front of her, and she or he was flanked by a coterie of Russian safety brokers, together with some sporting bulletproof vests, their faces coated by balaclavas.
The Russian authorities detained Ms. Griner, 31, a two-time Olympic gold medalist who performs for the Phoenix Mercury, a few week earlier than President Vladimir V. Putin’s forces invaded Ukraine in February. She was accused of getting two vape cartridges of cannabis oil in her baggage when she arrived at an airport close to Moscow. Russia didn’t make her detention public till after the invasion started.
What to Know About Brittney Griner’s Detention in Russia
Ms. Griner had been touring to Russia to play with a group in Yekaterinburg, about 900 miles east of Moscow, throughout the W.N.B.A. low season. She was charged with willfully smuggling the vape cartridges, violating Russian drug legal guidelines.
She now faces a attainable 10-year sentence. The verdict is predicted in August, her attorneys say.
In court docket on Wednesday, Ms. Griner testifying from an enclosed witness field, mentioned she had been planning to journey onward to Yekaterinburg however was pulled apart throughout a baggage examine in Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport, in accordance with reporters from Reuters and The Associated Press who have been within the courtroom. Two cartridges containing cannabis oil have been present in her baggage.
Ms. Griner testified Wednesday that she had been instructed to signal paperwork throughout her detention with out a proof of what they meant.
Ms. Griner additionally “explained to the court that she knows and respects Russian laws and never intended to break them,” Maria Blagovolina, a accomplice on the Rybalkin, Gortsunyan, Dyakin and Partners regulation agency who’s representing the basketball participant, mentioned in a press release after the listening to.
“Brittney confirmed that she had a doctor’s prescription for the use of medical cannabis, and that in the U.S.A. medical cannabis is quite a popular treatment among professional athletes,” Ms. Blagovolina mentioned. “She emphasized that never planned to bring it to Russia and use it.”
The Plight of Brittney Griner in Russia
The American basketball star has endured months in a Russian jail on costs of smuggling cannabis oil into the nation.
Ms. Griner additionally instructed the court docket that “Ekaterinburg became her second home, and she has always been enjoying her time in Russia,” the lawyer mentioned.
Before the testimony, Ms. Griner’s authorized group requested the decide to permit the basketball participant to testify exterior the enclosed witness field due to her top. The decide, Anna Sotnikova, refused the request however allowed Ms. Griner to testify whereas seated, in accordance with TASS, a Russian state information company.
Ms. Griner pleaded responsible within the case this month, saying that she had made a mistake and unintentionally carried a banned substance into Russia as a result of she had packed in a rush. In the Russian justice system, trials are performed even when defendants plead responsible. Ms. Griner’s attorneys have mentioned they hope her plea will make the court docket extra lenient.
Experts say that her finest hope is that the Biden administration finds a approach to swap her for a high-profile Russian who’s being held by the United States. But the administration is reluctant to create any incentive for the arrest or abduction of Americans overseas.