WNBA star Brittney Griner to testify this week in Russian trial


RIGA, Latvia — WNBA star Brittney Griner faces one other nerve-racking week in her Moscow trial on drug fees, together with her testimony and cross-examination by the prosecution anticipated Wednesday.

The Phoenix Mercury participant returns to court docket Tuesday, the place her protection workforce will proceed to current its case. She faces her biggest ordeal the following day, when she should reply questions from the choose and prosecutor, as she tries to make her case for leniency. The drug cost in opposition to her carries a possible sentence of as much as 10 years in jail.

Griner has been in custody since mid-February, after vape cartridges containing hashish oil have been present in her baggage at Sheremetyevo Worldwide Airport. She was arrested every week earlier than the invasion of Ukraine, when relations between america and Russia have been strained and icy. The Kremlin has rejected U.S. claims that she is being wrongfully held.

Griner pleaded responsible to the costs — that means she faces sure conviction — however she has advised the court docket she didn’t intend to interrupt Russian regulation, explaining she was in a rush when she packed her baggage for Moscow.

The trial has widened the gulf between Washington and Moscow and intensified anti-American sentiment in Russia. State tv spews out aggressive propaganda day by day, claiming that america provoked Russia’s struggle in opposition to Ukraine as a part of a plot to dismember the nation and gobble up its sources.

However Griner does have a nicely of sympathy in Yekaterinburg, the Urals metropolis the place she starred for the native workforce UMMC Yekaterinburg in a Russian league that pays Individuals beneficiant salaries to play in the course of the WNBA offseason.

UMMC Yekaterinburg’s 1000-member fan group on VKontakte, or VK, Russia’s model of Fb, largely helps Griner.

“I hope all ends nicely for Brittney and she will return to her household,” wrote a fan named Tatyana below a gaggle publish that quoted workforce Director Maksim Ryabkov’s character testimony on the trial earlier this month.

“A narrative that was blown out of proportion. Let the athlete go,” commented Nadezhda Maiga below a latest photograph picturing Griner in a courtroom cage.

However some see the cost as justified provided that marijuana is prohibited in Russia.

“The truth that she was arrested is appropriate, however I feel to offer her 5 years for that’s too harsh as a result of she didn’t deliver it to promote, however for herself,” wrote one other VK person, Dmitry Butakov.

Final week, the protection offered medical certificates indicating that Griner suffers from continual ache and was prescribed medical hashish by an Arizona physician.

After her testimony and cross-examination this week, the protection will relaxation its case. Since Griner pleaded responsible, her legal professionals say they hope to persuade the court docket to be lenient.

It isn’t clear when the decision and sentence will probably be handed down. Within the remaining levels of the case, the prosecutor and protection will sum up their circumstances, and the prosecutor will spell out what punishment the state is searching for. Griner will probably be given a “remaining phrase” — the defendant’s final probability to deal with the court docket in regards to the fees.

Some Individuals have voiced concern that an brazenly homosexual Black lady may face authorized bias in a rustic with an extended historical past of racism and discrimination in opposition to the LGBTQ group.

Trevor Reed, a former Marine not too long ago free of a Russian jail in a prisoner trade in April, stated final month at a rally in Griner’s help that she is “in loads of methods in a worse place” than he was “as a result of Brittney is African American.”

With political and diplomatic ties between Washington and Moscow in a deep freeze, sports activities and cultural ties are additionally fraying, and it appears unlikely that WNBA gamers will proceed to play in Russia. Griner’s American teammates in Yekaterinburg — Courtney Vandersloot, Allie Quigley and Jonquel Jone — flew house after Russia invaded Ukraine in February.

The U.S. State Division has warned Individuals to not journey to Russia.

The White Home says that Griner is being held in “insupportable circumstances” and it’ll do all it may well to have her launched with different wrongfully detained prisoners, together with Paul Whelan, an ex-Marine arrested in 2018, convicted of spying in 2020 and sentenced to 16 years in jail. He denies the costs, saying he was arrange.

Russian officers have condemned the general public stress in america for Griner’s launch whereas hinting that Russia could also be keen handy her over in a prisoner swap — however solely after the trial is accomplished.

Nonetheless, Moscow’s phrases could also be troublesome for Washington to simply accept: Media hypothesis is rising a couple of doable trade involving Russian arms supplier Viktor Bout, who’s presently serving a 25-year sentence in Illinois for conspiring to kill U.S. nationals and promoting weapons to terrorists.

The White Home and State Division have stated that liberating Griner and different wrongfully held Individuals is their highest precedence.

Natalia Abbakumova in Riga, Latvia, contributed to this report.


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