Brittney Griner’s demo on Russian drug fees opening in Moscow courtroom

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RIGA, Latvia — A Russian prosecutor on Friday accused WNBA star Brittney Griner of transporting a “significant amount” of cannabis oil, according to Russian media experiences on her trial, exactly where she faces 10 years prison if convicted.

Griner, seated in a cage in the courtroom with a bottle of water and a bag of cookies, claimed she comprehended the costs. She did not enter a plea.

Court officials initially barred media and cameras from the court, according to Russian media, but two journalists had been later on admitted.

Griner arrived at the courtroom in the Moscow suburb of Khimki carrying handcuffs to experience prices that she was carrying vape cartridges made up of hashish oil in her baggage at a Moscow airport in February, a week prior to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

She has been in custody due to the fact February and will continue to be there right until December pending the end result of her trial. U.S. Chargé d’Affaires Elizabeth Rood and other U.S. diplomats attended Griner’s hearing.

Every thing you need to know about Brittney Griner in Russia

“According to the expert’s conclusion, the detected compound is cannabis oil, which is matter to control on the territory of the Russian Federation and is labeled as a narcotic drug,” the prosecutor informed the courtroom, in accordance to Russian BFM radio.

Griner’s circumstance has been difficult by the extreme downturn in relations among Washington and Moscow and her supporters say she is a hostage and political pawn.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov denied any political motives at the rear of the trial.

“I can only operate with details. The points exhibit that the eminent athlete was detained with unlawful prescription drugs that contained narcotic substances. Russian laws does have guidelines that deliver for punishments for this sort of crimes,” Peskov stated.

Peskov previous week dismissed claims she was a hostage, expressing that drug offenses are addressed severely in Russia and several other international locations. “We can’t get in touch with her a hostage. Why should we contact her a hostage?” he stated.

Griner’s supporters in the United States have referred to as on President Biden to negotiate a prisoner swap like a single in April, when Russia exchanged previous Maritime Trevor Reed for Konstantin Yaroshenko, a Russian pilot serving a 20-12 months prison sentence in Connecticut for drug trafficking. Reed experienced been jailed for 9 yrs soon after staying convicted of assault endangering the life of police officers.

Brittney Griner’s demo in Russia is set to start out. Here’s what to be expecting.

Griner is 1 of two Us residents that the State Department suggests are being wrongfully held by Russia. Previous U.S. Marine Paul Whelan has been in jail considering the fact that December 2018, when he traveled to Moscow for a friend’s wedding and was arrested in his lodge place. He was jailed for 16 years following getting convicted of spying in a closed demo. He denies the rates and phone calls the case political.

Secretary of Point out Antony Blinken reported Sunday that freeing wrongfully held Us residents these types of as Whelan and Griner was his greatest precedence.

“I’ve obtained no greater priority than making guaranteed that Us residents who are becoming illegally detained in 1 way or a different around the globe come household, and that contains Paul Whelan and that consists of Brittney Griner,” he said in an job interview with CNN, declining to remark on no matter if the U.S. govt was seeking a prisoner trade involving Whelan and Griner.

Russian media has speculated that Washington could trade Griner for Russian arms supplier Viktor Bout, who is serving 25 yrs in the United States for conspiring to offer floor-to-air missiles to a overseas terrorist group and conspiring to kill U.S. citizens. Bout, the inspiration for the Nicholas Cage film “Lord of War,” allegedly smuggled arms to warlords in Africa, the Center East and South Asia for decades — at times arming equally sides in a conflict — until his 2008 arrest in Thailand and 2010 extradition to the United States. Russia phone calls Bout’s arrest and conviction “unlawful and political” and has been demanding his launch considering that 2008.

In accordance to Russian customs officers, Griner was about to fly from Moscow to New York when a sniffer puppy at Sheremetyevo Worldwide Airport “indicated that drugs may possibly be in the have-on luggage of a United States citizen,” a reference to Griner. Customs officials reported they found vapes in her luggage, which were being later analyzed and found to consist of hashish oil. The customs agency posted online video of the airport research evidently taken from surveillance cameras.

In early May perhaps, the State Section decided that Griner was remaining wrongfully held and shifted supervision of her circumstance to Roger Carstens, presidential envoy for hostage affairs. The division has not elaborated on the basis for the judgment.

Point out Office spokesman Ned Cost explained at the time that the office weighed the conditions in every single scenario, “whether it is the scenario of Brittney Griner, whether or not it is the scenario of Paul Whelan, whether it is the case of People in Iran. There are likely to be one of a kind things in each individual and every one particular of people conditions.”

Value said Griner was “fortunate to have a network who has supported her from day a person,” incorporating that the office had labored intently with her backers.

About a thirty day period ahead of the invasion of Ukraine, the Condition Section issued a amount 4 security warning to People in america, stipulating “do not travel” to Russia mainly because of the risk of arbitrary enforcement of the law and harassment by Russian officials, as perfectly as tensions around Ukraine. It warned that Point out Division officials had a limited capability to enable U.S. citizens in Russia.

“Russian officials have unreasonably delayed U.S. consular help to detained U.S. citizens and have arrested U.S. citizens on spurious expenses, denied them honest and transparent remedy, and have convicted them in key trials and/or without the need of presenting proof,” the warning read through.

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