Brittney Griner's Much Anticipated, Much Dreaded Trial Begins In Russia, Here's What We Know

Brittney Griner was escorted into the courtroom in handcuffs wearing a Jimi Hendrix T-shirt, her long dreadlocks neatly pulled back, her eyes intense but expressing little. 

Though press access was strictly controlled, a gaggle of reporters gathered in front of the Khimki City Court to catch a glimpse of the six-foot-nine basketball star, much beloved in Russia as a high-scoring member of the country’s women's basketball team during the US off season. 

Dmitri S. Peskov, a Kremlin spokesperson, told reporters at a regular news conference that “the famous athlete was detained with illegal drugs that contained narcotic substances. Only the court can pass a verdict.” 

U.S. Embassy officials are on hand for the trial about which little information has become available except for the chilling repetition that if convicted, Griner could face up to ten years in a Russian penal colony.

During Friday's hearing, Griner was not asked to declare her innocence or guilt. That phase of the legal process will come later. The New York Times reported that when Russian prosecutors unsealed their case against Griner, they shared new details about the case. 

Russian state news agency Tass, which has a staff member in the courtroom, reported that the indictment alleges that before traveling to Russia in February, Griner "bought two cartridges for personal use, which contained 0.252 grams and 0.45 grams of hash oil."

Two witnesses testified for the prosecution, including customs agents who were on duty at the airport when Griner's bags were inspected at a Moscow airport on Feb. 17. Prosecutors will likely have four hearings before the defense gets its turn.

As for Griner's mindset right now, Griner's lawyer, Alexander Boikov told NPR that she is "a bit worried" because of the trial and the potential of a prison sentence — "but she's a tough lady and I think she will manage."

Political Pawn?

Terri Jackson, executive director of the union representing WNBA players, implied to NPR that Russia is playing politics with Griner.

"They know who they have. She's a hero in their country too. I mean, they love women's basketball," Jackson said. "They take their championships very seriously. And let's be clear: she's given them more than a few."

Meanwhile, as tension mounts between the world’s two, if unsteady super powers, the State Department said recently that Griner is being wrongfully detained.  

Griner’s family and supporters have pushed into high gear as they implore Biden to do more, despite the administration’s recent comments that the WNBA and two-time Olympic gold medalist has the “fullest attention of the President.”

The next hearing is slated for July 7. A Russian judge ordered Griner to be detained for the length of her trial.  

Posted In: CannabisESGNewsEurozonePoliticsSportsMarketsGeneralMoscownprRussiaTerri JacksonUS State Dept.WNBA


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