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Russian prosecutors call first witnesses in case against Brittney Griner

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Russia’s Khimki On Friday, the trial for WNBA star Brittney Griner, who has been held in custody in Russia for more than four months on drug-related allegations, started with new information from the prosecution.

WNBA star and two-time Olympic gold medalist Brittney Griner is escorted to a courtroom for a hearing in Khimki just outside Moscow, as her trial begins on Friday.
Alexander Zemlianichenko/AP

Officials from the U.S. Embassy are present at the trial. Press access is strictly regulated, but a group of reporters gathered to see Griner, who was wearing handcuffs and a Jimi Hendrix T-shirt, being carried into the courtroom in Khimki City Court, which is located outside of Moscow.

Griner did not have to admit her guilt or innocence at the hearing on Friday. The legal process will then go on to that phase.

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Griner imported two hash cartridges, claims the prosecutor
Griner was detained on February 17 when officials at an airport in the Moscow region allegedly discovered cannabis vape cartridges in her luggage. If she is found guilty of the narcotics smuggling allegations, she may spend up to 10 years in prison.

Prosecutors unveiled their evidence against Griner in court on Friday.

The indictment states that before visiting Russia in February, Griner “purchased two cartridges for personal use, which included 0.252 grams and 0.45 grams of hash oil,” according to a member of the courtroom staff from the Russian state news agency Tass.

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When the basketball player arrived at Sheremetyevo International Airport in Khimki via a flight from New York, the cartridges were allegedly discovered during a security screening.

According to Griner’s attorney, Alexander Boikov, two customs agents who were on duty at the airport when Griner’s bags were inspected gave testimony for the prosecution. Before the defense has its chance, the prosecution will probably have four hearings, he added.

Boikov stated that Griner is currently “a bit frightened” about the trial and the possibility of a prison sentence, but added that she is “a tough person and I think she will cope.”

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On July 7, the next hearing is scheduled. For the duration of Griner’s trial, a Russian judge ruled that she must be held.

According to the US, Griner is being used as a negotiating chip.
U.S. Deputy Chief of Mission Elizabeth Rood claimed to have spoken with Griner in the courtroom following Friday’s hearing.

Rood added, “She begged me to convey that she is in excellent spirits and is maintaining the faith.

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The Biden administration declared Griner to have been illegally held by the Russian authorities in early May. The United States thinks the Putin regime ordered Griner’s detention in order to use her as bargaining chips.

According to John J. Sullivan, the U.S. ambassador to Russia, “Wrongful imprisonment as a bargaining chip is a threat to the safety of everyone traveling and residing abroad.” Helping Griner and other Americans arrested in Russia is their primary goal, according to him and other American officials.

According to Terri Jackson, executive director of the union that represents WNBA players, the president needs to take greater action.

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“We want Cherelle Griner, BG’s wife, to meet with President Biden, our elected official, and have a face-to-face conversation. because, what the? She is due for that.”

The White House is closely coordinating with the Special Presidential Envoy for Hostage Affairs, who has met with Brittney’s family, her teammates, and her support network, the White House said in response to a query from NPR about that request. Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken and National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan “spoke with Brittney’s wife this past week.”

The spokeswoman stated that the American government “continues to work aggressively, using every available means, to bring her home.”

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Griner has played basketball for a long time in Russia.
Griner, 31, is the star center for the Phoenix Mercury and a two-time Olympic gold champion. Her ordeal started a week prior to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and her captivity has since been routinely extended. Additionally rejected was a request for home detention.

Griner, like many WNBA players, makes a significant portion of her income playing abroad while the WNBA season is off. She has been a player for the Russian team UMMC Ekaterinburg, owned by oligarch Iskander Makhmudov, for many years. The team and the Mercury have a long history together.

Jackson stated, referring to Griner’s distinguished career in both the United States and Russia, “They know who they have.”

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“She is revered in their nation. They really adore women’s basketball, “Jackson remarked. “They take great pride in winning titles. She has given them more than a few, to be clear.”

The WNBA has inscribed Griner’s initials and number — BG42 — on the home courts of its 12 teams as her backers demand that she be released from the current season.

Kremlin denies interfering with the Griner case politically
The Kremlin maintains that the matter is unrelated to politics. Dmitry Peskov, the spokesperson, stated on Friday that he wouldn’t comment on a proceeding in court, but he went on to discuss the facts of the case.

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Peskov added, “I can only tell the facts,” adding that Griner was taken into custody “with prohibited chemicals that contained narcotic substances.” Only the court has the authority to render judgments, he continued.

Recently, the State Department reiterated its Level 4 travel warning against Russia. Americans are at risk in Russia, the CIA claimed, in addition to the inconveniences caused by the invasion of Ukraine.

The warning claims that “Russian security services have detained American individuals on baseless allegations, singled out American citizens in Russia, denied them fair and transparent treatment, and have convicted them in secret courts and/or without providing convincing evidence.”

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Reporting from Russia was Maynes. Reporting from Washington, D.C., Chappell

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