Brittney Griner to testify in Russian court as trial continues

Griner’s lawyer Alexander Boikov confirmed to CNN that the two-time Olympic champion would testify, adding that prosecutors would also have the opportunity to question her.

Griner has been in Russian custody since February, when authorities said they found cannabis oil in her luggage at a Moscow airport and accused the WNBA player, who plays in Russia during the off-season, of smuggling a significant amount of the drug.

Griner pleaded guilty in the Khimki regional court near Moscow earlier this month, the defense hopes the ruling will be taken into account by the court and possibly lead to a less severe sentence. But the US State Department has classified her as wrongfully detained, and her supporters have called for her release, fearing she could be used as a political pawn during Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
According to a source close to her, only Griner made the decision to plead guilty. A few weeks, Griner, her family, lawyers and experts discussed the decision at length, and given Russia’s 99% reported criminal conviction rate, Griner was urged to weigh all factors, including a guilty plea that could ultimately result in a reduced sentence.

At the beginning of the trial, the prosecutor accused Griner of deliberately importing drugs into Russia, but Griner later told the court that she did not intend to commit the crime, according to the state news agency RIA Novosti. According to her, the cannabis oil was in her luggage due to the fact that she was packing in a hurry.

Griner’s lawyers told Russian judges that their client prescribed medical marijuana for “severe chronic pain” and at Tuesday’s hearing – the fifth trial – they argued that the cannabis oil was intended for medicinal purposes, not recreational use.

A narcologist called as an expert witness for the defense testified that this was likely based on Griner’s prescription because, according to Maria Blagovolina, Griner’s other lawyer, “medical cannabis is a popular treatment specifically among athletes” outside of Russia.

Boikov, however, emphasized that the position of the defense was not that Griner was “allowed to bring” illegal substances into Russia, but that they hoped to show the court, “even in the US, where it is allowed, she used these substances occasionally, as prescribed by law.” doctor, for medical purposes only, to relieve pain.”

Britney Griner was prescribed medical marijuana for

“We continue to insist that she, through negligence, in a hurry, packed her suitcase and did not pay attention to the fact that substances approved for use in the United States ended up in this suitcase and arrived in the Russian Federation,” Boikov said. .

At the hearing on Tuesday, as in the previous ones, there was the charge d’affaires of the US Embassy Elizabeth Rood. The trial is expected to conclude early next month, Griner’s lawyers said.

Some speculate that Griner could be released in a prisoner exchange, like Trevor Reid, an American veteran who was in Russian custody for three years before being released in April.

But ahead of any potential prisoner exchange, Griner was expected to be convicted as well as plead guilty, a senior US official previously told CNN.

Britney Griner stands in a cage awaiting a court hearing.
Griner’s arrest drew the attention of prominent American athletes, including USWNT star Megan Rapinoe and four-time NBA champion Steph Curry. who urged those listening to focus on her release last week ESPY Awards.

“Hoping for the best, we encourage the entire global sports community to continue to be active for her,” Curry said as WNBA stars Nneka Ogwumike and Skylar Diggins-Smith joined in on the issue.

“She is one of us, the team of athletes in this hall tonight and around the world. A team that has nothing to do with politics or global conflict.”

Griner’s wife, Cherell Griner, spoke with President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris earlier this month after publicly criticizing the administration’s response to her wife’s detention.

Sherel Griner said she was “grateful” for the call, but added that she “would be concerned and frank” until her wife returned home.