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Russia | Brittney Griner’s basketball court has been updated on July 7th

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(Khimki) The trial of American female basketball star Brittney Griner for drug trafficking opened Friday behind closed doors in Russia, a case with strong political connotations in the midst of the Russian-American crisis.

Updated on 1uh July

Maria PANINA
French media agency

The partial session behind closed doors, with a limited presence of the media in the courtroom, was decided on “the request of the defense, at the request of Griner herself”, said Polina Vdovtsova, spokesperson for the court of Khimki, a town on the outskirts of Moscow.


PHOTO EVGENIA NOVOZHENINA, REUTERS

Journalists gathered in front of the court in Khimki, a town on the outskirts of Moscow, for the trial of Brittney Griner.

In the afternoon, the trial was updated to 7 July.

The defendant arrived in court handcuffed, wearing a T-shirt with the image of the American musician Jimi Hendrix.

Phoenix player Mercury came to Russia in February to play there during America’s off-season, a common practice for basketball players who sometimes live better abroad than at home.

It was upon his arrival at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport that the two-time Olympic gold medalist with the United States (2016, 2020) was arrested in possession, according to the indictment, of cannabis-based vaporizers and liquids.

The prosecutor said Friday that the amount in solid form would have represented less than one gram of cannabis.

A customs representative testified at Friday’s trial.


PHOTO KIRILL KUDRYAVTSEV, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Britney Griner

However, the basketball player faces up to 10 years in prison.

US authorities initially kept a low profile on her case, which was not revealed to the public until March 5.

Exchanges of prisoners

In a context of continuing deterioration of Russian-American relations, particularly with the conflict in Ukraine, the top authorities in Washington therefore seized the matter and declared that Russia was holding the 2.03 m speedboat “unfairly”, 31 years.

His case is followed up by the special envoy of the United States responsible for the people taken hostage.

“The US Embassy and the country are deeply concerned about this case,” US Embassy representative Elizabeth Rood told the court.

M.myself Griner “told me to communicate that morale is high and that he is keeping the faith,” he added.

The wife of the detained athlete, Cherelle, instead believed in an interview with CNN that the actions of the American authorities were insufficient, despite good intentions.

“I don’t think the best effort is being made because, again, the rhetoric does not match the action,” she said, citing the case of a planned phone call between the couple and interrupted according to her because of the embassy.

Cherelle Griner said she hoped to meet with President Joe Biden because, she said, she has the “power” to repatriate Brittney.

Defense attorney Alexander Boïkov said during a break that the defendant had not yet spoken at the trial.

He also assured that he had “no complaints about his conditions of detention”.

In light of Russian jurisprudence in similar cases, the young woman can expect a heavy sentence, to be served in a Russian penal colony.

Americans and Russians accuse each other of detaining their respective citizens for political purposes. There have been several exchanges of prisoners in the past.

In April, former US Marine Trevor Reed, sentenced to nine years in prison in Russia for violence he denied, was exchanged for a Russian pilot, Konstantin Yaroshenko, who had been jailed in the United States since 2010 for drug trafficking in connection with the Colombian FARC.

Other such exchanges would be the subject of talks.

Among the most cited names, that of Paul Whelan, an American sentenced to 16 years for espionage and who declares himself innocent, and of the famous Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout, arrested in Thailand in 2008 and who is serving a 25-year sentence in prison in the United States.

Following the appearance of Brittney Griner, US Foreign Minister Antony Blinken said that he and his country “had no higher priority than bringing home her and other unjustly detained Americans, such as Paul Whelan.

A case similar to that of the basketball player has resulted in a diplomatic agreement between Moscow and Israel.

In January 2020, Russian President Vladimir Putin pardoned Israeli-American Naama Issachar, imprisoned in Russia for “drug trafficking”, during a meeting in Moscow with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, who left with the young woman.

M.myself Issachar was arrested in April 2019 while transiting at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport on a flight from India to Israel with a connection in the Russian capital. Nine grams of cannabis were found in his checked baggage.

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