Brittney Griner gets backing of Russian club, teammate


KHIMKI, Russia — Brittney Griner’s drug possession trial resumed Thursday with the head of the Russian club she plays for in the offseason and a teammate from that squad testifying in support of her character and what the WNBA star has intended for women’s basketball in the place.

Griner, who pleaded responsible past 7 days, did not testify as anticipated at the third working day of the demo. She has been detained in Russia considering that February, and the U.S. authorities is less than stress at home to do more to secure her freedom. Her responsible plea could be an work to expedite the court docket proceedings so any negotiations about a prisoner trade could go forward.

Griner was arrested at the Russian capital’s Sheremetyevo Airport when customs officers reported they observed vape canisters with cannabis oil in her baggage. She acknowledged in court that she possessed the canisters, but reported she had no criminal intent and said their existence in her baggage was due to hasty packing. She is facing up to 10 a long time in prison.

In Russia’s judicial process, admitting guilt does not immediately conclusion a trial

Most journalists were being denied obtain to Thursday’s session, but the director of UMMC Ekaterinburg, for which she plays through the WNBA offseason, explained to reporters afterward that he testified as a character witness.

“Our endeavor currently was to tell the court docket about her attributes as an athlete, as a person — explain to about how she performed a significant part in the accomplishment of the Ektaerinburg club and Russian women’s basketball as a complete,” club director Maxim Rybakov.

“Today is the initial working day when we have witnessed our basketball player since February. Thank God, she feels very well, appears great,” Rybakov said outdoors the courthouse in the Moscow suburb of Khimki, where the airport is positioned.

Participant Evgenia Belyakova stated she testified that “Brittney has normally been a incredibly very good teammate, so my part in this article is just to be with her, to aid her.”

“We overlook her very significantly, we miss her vitality,” Belyakova extra. “I was pretty happy to see her, and I hope this trial will be around before long and with a beneficial consequence.”

Also in court had been Elizabeth Rood, charge d’affaires of the U.S. Embassy in Moscow, and other consular officers, and they were being capable to communicate to Griner, who advised them she appreciated their presence, the U.S. State Office mentioned.

The trial’s next session is set for Friday.

Griner is one particular of the most popular feminine athletes in the U.S., a standout for the Phoenix Mercury and a two-time Olympic gold medalist.

U.S. President Joe Biden and Secretary of State Antony Blinken have said they had been executing all they could to acquire her release, as perfectly as that of other People in america the U.S. considers “wrongly detained” by Russia, including previous Marine Paul Whelan.

Washington may well have little leverage with Moscow, nevertheless, simply because of solid animosity more than its armed service operation in Ukraine.

Russian media have speculated that Griner could be swapped for Russian arms trader Viktor Bout, nicknamed “the Merchant of Death,” who is serving a 25-calendar year sentence in the U.S. after staying convicted of conspiracy to get rid of U.S. citizens and providing assist to a terrorist organization.

Russia has agitated for Bout’s release for several years. But the vast discrepancy in the seriousness of their scenarios could make such a trade unpalatable to Washington. Others have suggested that Griner could be traded along with Whelan, who is serving 16 several years in Russia on an espionage conviction that the U.S. has explained as a set up.

The State Department’s designation of Griner as wrongfully detained moves her case under the supervision of its particular presidential envoy for hostage affairs, correctly the government’s chief hostage negotiator. The classification has irritated Russia.

Questioned about the probability of Griner currently being swapped for a Russian jailed in the U.S., Deputy International Minister Sergei Ryabkov, the senior Russian diplomat, has pointed out that until eventually her trial is more than “there are no formal or procedural factors to communicate about any further more ways.”

Ryabkov warned that U.S. criticism, like the description of Griner as wrongfully detained and dismissive feedback about the Russian judicial procedure, “makes it complicated to have interaction in comprehensive dialogue of any probable exchanges.”

Griner’s detention has been authorized as a result of Dec. 20, suggesting the demo could last months. Griner’s lawyers, nonetheless, said they count on it to conclude around the starting of August.


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Anna C. Knight

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