Washington considers Griner ‘wrongfully detained’ and has known as for her launch.
The trial of United States skilled basketball participant Brittney Griner, who was arrested in Russia in February after authorities discovered vape cartridges containing cannabis oil in her baggage, has begun in Moscow.
Griner, a Girls’s Nationwide Basketball Affiliation (WNBA) all star and two-time Olympic gold medallist, arrived at a courtroom on the outskirts of the Russian capital on Friday for the trial, during which she faces as much as 10 years in jail.
Arriving at Khimki Metropolis Court docket in handcuffs, the 31-year-old athlete wore a T-shirt exhibiting guitar icon Jimi Hendrix and was accompanied by three individuals. US embassy employees have been in attendance on the proceedings. Cameras weren’t permitted within the courtroom.
The US State Division has labelled Griner “wrongfully detained” and is negotiating for her launch amid tanked relations with Russia within the wake of its invasion of Ukraine. Griner’s arrest got here simply days earlier than Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered troops into the neighbouring nation on February 24.
On Friday, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov denied the case was politically motivated.
“I can solely function with identified info, and the info point out that the eminent athlete was detained with unlawful medicine that contained narcotic substances. There are articles in Russian laws that present for punishment for such crimes,” he advised reporters.
“Solely the courtroom can cross a verdict.”
Griner’s detention has prompted issues that Moscow might use the athlete to hunt the discharge of a high-profile Russian in US custody, with Senator Tim Kaine warning the ahead for the Phoenix Mercury may very well be used as a “negotiating chip”.
A few of Griner’s supporters have known as on the US to supply such a swap.
Excessive-profile figures throughout the sports activities world have additionally known as for Griner’s launch, with NBA gamers carrying T-shirts that say “We’re BG” at some video games.
WNBA gamers, who’re paid significantly lower than their male counterparts, are sometimes provided profitable contracts by the Russian Girls’s Basketball Premier League to play throughout the US low season.
Some have now left the Russian league, amid Griner’s detention and Russia’s army intervention in Ukraine.
US officers say Griner is considered one of two residents wrongfully detained by Russia. Paul Whelan, a former US marine, has been held in Russia since 2018 after being convicted of spying. He has denied the allegation.