Defending witnesses gave praise Brittney Grinerhis athleticism and prowess on Thursday in a courtroom on the outskirts of Moscow, where the American basketball star – now one of the world’s most famous prisoners – is facing a sentence 10 years could be a drug offense.
Maksim Ryabkov, director of UMMC Yekaterinburg, the professional Russian team for which Griner played, testifies to her “excellent abilities as a player and personal contribution to strengthening her spirit. spirit of the team,” said Griner’s attorney, Maria Blagovolina. partners with companies Rybalkin, Gortsunyan, Dyakin and Partners.
Griner’s trial continues a week after she pleaded guilty to drug charges. Russian authorities allege she had a vape box with hash oil in her luggage at an airport near Moscow on February 17, where she went to play with UMMC Yekaterinburg during the WNBA season. In the Russian justice system, trials go on even if defendants plead guilty, but Ms Griner’s lawyers said they hoped her confession would lead to more leniency in the courts.
The trial is expected to continue on Friday.
The harshest outcome – a possible 10-year sentence in a criminal area – remains a possibility even after Ms Griner’s lawyers allege she had mistakenly packed the pack of cigarettes.
Despite pressure on the United States to make a deal to free her, possibly through a prisoner exchange, Russian officials insist that no talks can happen until after the war is over. proceedings are over and limit the possibility of any imminent resolution to Ms. Griner’s case.
Things to know about Brittney Griner’s detention in Russia
When asked about the possibility of a prisoner swap, Kremlin spokesman Dmitri S. Peskov said on Thursday: “We never discuss exchange issues.”
The spokeswoman for the Russian Foreign Ministry, Maria V. Zakharova, reiterated that any negotiations around Ms. Griner must be carried out out of importance. She added that such negotiations can only come to fruition after a ruling is made in her case, and called on US officials to “abandon futile efforts to put pressure on them.” me,” the Interfax news agency reported.
Ms Zakharova said: “The Griner trial continues, and until it is over, it is generally too early to discuss any options for her return home.
Ms. Griner, 31, one of the WNBA’s brightest stars and two-time Olympic gold medalist with the US women’s basketball team, has been caught up in Washington’s increasingly acrimonious relationship with Moscow amid war in Ukraine.
With legal experts saying a guilty verdict is all but a foregone conclusion in a justice system that favors prosecution, Ms Griner’s chances of freedom may depend on whether US officials could negotiate her release, or whether she could receive clemency after sentencing. achieve.
The Plight of Brittney Griner in Russia
The American basketball star spent months in prison in Russia accused of smuggling hash oil into the country.
According to experts, her best hope is for the Biden administration to make an exchange by releasing a Russian jailed in the United States. The Russian media have linked her case to Viktor Bouta Russian arms dealer known as “The Merchant of Death” who is serving a 25-year federal sentence in Illinois for conspiring to sell weapons to people who say they planned to kill Americans.
Amid criticism that Washington is not doing enough to secure her release, Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken has stated that the US government will not back down until Ms. Griner and the “detained Americans” keep wrong” another is taken home.
The case also deals with issues of race, gender and sexuality. Ms Griner is black and openly gay, and many of her supporters have worried that her chances of getting a fair trial are even more remote in Russia, a country where homosexuals are often often face discrimination.
American basketball superstar LeBron James recently appeared to criticize the US government’s effort to bring Ms. Griner home. “Now, how can she feel like America has her back?” Mr. James said in a trailer for an episode of his TV show, “The Shop: Uninterrupt”. “I would feel like, ‘Do I even want to go back to America?'” After facing backlash, he explained in a statement. tweet on Tuesday that he “didn’t bring down our beautiful country.”