More than four months after first detention, WNBA star Brittney Greener is expected to appear in a Russian courtroom on Friday to begin a drug trial that legal experts say will almost certainly end in a guilty verdict, despite the uproar in court. USA for her release.
“There is a bias mainly because the Russian judiciary says they really shouldn’t go to trial unless the defendant is convicted,” said William Pomeranz, acting director of the Kennan Institute and an expert on Russian law. “There is no real idea or expectation that the defendant can be innocent. In fact, there is no presumption of innocence.”
Russian customs officials said they found e-cigarette cartridges with traces of hash oil in Griner’s luggage as she passed through a security checkpoint at an airport outside Moscow on Feb. 2. 17. The drug-related charges Griner faces carry a sentence of up to 10 years in a maximum security penal colony.
Oleksandr Boikov, Griner’s lawyer, said Monday he expects the trial to begin on Friday and last up to two months.
“At this point, we don’t know what evidence they have,” Pomeranz said. “We don’t know how many volumes of evidence they want to read into the record, but usually in cases of this type they are impressive and significant.”
Griner’s detention comes at a delicate geopolitical moment during Russia’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine and against the backdrop of strained Russian diplomatic relations with the United States and some European countries. From the very beginning of Griner’s detention, her supporters feared that she could be used by Russia during a global conflict.
In May, the US State Department confirmed these concerns, saying that Greener had been “wrongfully detained.” This shifted responsibility for the case to the government bureau that directs and coordinates the diplomatic and strategic efforts of the United States in foreign hostage-taking cases.
“Britney has been classified as wrongfully detained since April 29, meaning the US government has determined that she is being used as a political pawn and is negotiating her release as a result, regardless of the legal process.” Greener’s agent Lindsay Kagawa Kolas made the announcement in an email on Wednesday. “So we expect, including Britney’s family, that President Biden will cut a deal to bring her home.”
Griner’s family and supporters are increasingly pleading with President Biden and the US government to secure Griner’s release.
Kagawa Kolas recently coordinated letter Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris have signed groups such as the National Organization for Women, the Human Rights Campaign, the National Urban League and the National Action Network. The letter calls on the government to strike a deal to free Griner.
In April, Russia, after agreeing to a prisoner exchange, released Trevor Reid, a former US Marine who was sentenced to nine years in prison on charges that he endangered Russian police officers during an argument.
According to Kimberly St. Julian-Warnon, Ph.D. is a history student at the University of Pennsylvania whose research areas include the experience of African Americans in the Soviet Union, Ukraine, and Russia.
“The problem is that Britney is politically worth a lot more in terms of the prisoner trade than Trevor Reed because of her profile. So the request will be much larger, and I think that the request that is telegraphed in the Russian news is for Viktor Bout,” said St. Julian-Warnon, who advised the WNBA Players Union on Griner’s detention.
Bolt, an international arms dealer, was convicted by a US court and sentenced to 25 years in prison. Russia is also interested in the release Roman Seleznev, a hacker who was convicted in the United States of running a massive credit card and identity theft operation and sentenced to 27 years in prison. In addition to Griner, Russia also detained Paul Whelan, a former US Marine sentenced to 16 years on espionage charges.
“This is the classic dilemma of hostage situations,” said Thomas Firestone, a former Justice Department official who worked as a lawyer in Moscow. “If you are negotiating release, you can encourage hostage taking in the future. If you don’t, the person may never be released.”
Jake Sullivan, Biden’s national security adviser, told reporters Tuesday that he and Secretary of State Anthony Blinken have spoken in recent days to Griner’s wife, Sherell Griner.
“The United States government is actively trying to solve this case and bring Britney home,” Sullivan said. He added: “This is given the utmost attention of the President and every high-ranking member of his national security service and diplomatic team. And we are actively working to find a solution to this case and will continue to do so without rest until we return Britney safe and sound home.
On Tuesday, Russia announced that it had banned Biden, First Lady Jill Biden and others from entering the country in response to far-reaching sanctions. The list includes four senators: Republicans Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, Susan Collins of Maine and Ben Sass of Nebraska, and Democrat Kirsten Gillibrand of New York.
“Release Britney Griner,” Sasse said in a statement. “It’s okay when Putin throws a tantrum and bans Americans from Russia, but we get in trouble when he takes an American prisoner.”
What you need to know about the detention of Britney Griner in Russia
Griner is one of the most decorated basketball players in the world – a seven-time WNBA All-Star, two-time Olympic gold medalist and the first openly gay athlete to sign an advertising contract with Nike. She traveled to Russia after a two-week break to play for UMMC Yekaterinburg, a powerful professional women’s basketball team.
Since then, news about Griner has been sparse and mostly spread by Russian state media. Griner said she communicated with her WNBA colleagues through letters and emails. Associated Press. But Sherel Griner said AP that a recent, long-planned phone call between them did not take place due to a logistical error at the US Embassy in Moscow.
“I find this unacceptable and I have no confidence in our government right now,” Cherell Griner told The AP in late June. “If I can’t trust you to call back on a Saturday after business hours, how can I trust you to actually negotiate on my wife’s behalf to return home?”
In a radio interview on Wednesday with Rev. Al Sharpton, who is also the founder of the National Action Network, Cherell Griner said she hasn’t spoken to her wife since February but has received letters.
“She tells me she’s fine,” Cherell Griner said of her wife’s letters. “She’s like, ‘I’m fine, baby. I’m hardened. I am not me now. When I get home, it will take me a minute to recover, but I’m holding on. I won’t break until I get home. I won’t let them bring me down. I know they’re trying, but I’ll do my best to just hold on until I get home.”
Paris Hatcher became even more alarmed after learning of Britney Griner’s detention extension on Monday and seeing a photo of Griner circulated by Russian state media.
“She looks scared,” said Hatcher, whose organization Black Feminist Future created the #BringBrittneyHome online campaign. “The main thing is that someone was detained. It’s all about dignity. It’s about someone’s humanity. She deserves to be connected to her family.”
The rights of defendants in Russia contrast sharply with those charged with a crime in the US, St. Petersburg. Julian-Warnon said.
“You have no right to trial by jury,” said St. Julian-Warnon said. “You have no right to have your lawyer call any witnesses they want. The whole case against you and the case in your support comes from the evidence gathered by the state.”
Still, St. Julian-Warnon said she remains cautiously optimistic that Griner could eventually be released, either through a prisoner exchange or conviction on a lesser charge and agreeing to pay a hefty fine.
“There are many moving parts,” said St. Julian-Warnon said. “I want to remain optimistic because this is still her life. This is Britney’s life. This is Sherel’s life.”