The two-time Olympian was led into court at Khimki City in handcuffs, clutching a photo of her wife Cherelle. She was joined by her lawyers and US embassy staff. Only a few journalists are permitted in court.
The charges against her include intentionally transporting narcotics. Facing up to 10 years in prison in Russia, Griner pleaded guilty but added there was no intent to break the law and she had packed in a hurry. She is hoping for leniency from the court.
Griner will give testimony later with the next court hearing scheduled for 14 July. Elizabeth Rood of the US Embassy was able to speak with her in court and share with her a letter from President Joe Biden.
A centre for the Phoenix Mercury, Griner had played for UMMC Ekaterinburg in Russia during the WNBA off-season, Griner was arrested when Russian airport security say they found vape cartridges containing hash oil in her luggage.
Russian officials have said Griner can seek clemency or appeal after any verdict is handed down.
Russian foreign ministry says Griner may appeal or ask for clemency
Russia’s foreign ministry said on Wednesday that US basketball player Brittney Griner, who was detained in Russia on drugs charges, may appeal her sentence or apply for clemency once a verdict has been delivered.
Russian foreign ministry spokesperson Alexei Zaitsev said in a briefing: “The court must first deliver its verdict, but no one is stopping Brittney Griner from making use of the appeal procedure, and likewise asking for clemency.”
Mr Zaitsev said: “Attempts to present the case as though the American woman was illegally detained do not stand up to criticism.”
In May, the US State Department designated Ms Griner as “wrongfully detained”.
Ms Griner, who had been playing for a Yekaterinburg-based club during the off-season, was arrested at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport on February 17 on drugs charges that carry up to ten years in prison.
Russian official said that cannabis-infused vaporiser cartridges, which are illegal in Russia, had been found in Ms Griner‘s baggage. Her trial began on Friday and continues tomorrow.
Reporting by Reuters
Former US envoy to Russia supports idea of Brittney Griner prisoner swap deal
Former US ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul appeared on MSNBC on Tuesday to discuss Brittney Griner’s letter urging action from President Biden to get her and other Americans detained in Russia back home.
“This is not a terrorist organisation. This is a government, and they should consider this swap. Not just Brittney Griner, as she rightly writes in her letter, but also Paul Whelan and Mark Fogel, another American wrongly detained in Russia,” Mr McFaul told Andrea Mitchell.
‘Ten more years of Victor Bout in jail versus those three Americans staying in jail for a decade, I would take that trade,’ says former US envoy
Griner’s wife calls out lack of Biden action to free WNBA star from Russia detention
Ms Griner appealed directly to the president to help her efforts to win freedom from detention in Russia on alleged drug charges involving hashish oil.
Her family has had no success in contacting the president regarding the issue, which led the Phoenix Mercury centre to write to Mr Biden in person.
‘My wife is struggling, and we have to help her,’ Cherelle Griner tells Gayle King on CBS Mornings
Report: Biden to respond to Griner letter as soon as today
NBC News reports that President Joe Biden is expected to respond as soon as today to the handwritten letter sent to him by Brittney Griner.
The WNBA star directly appealed to the president for his help in securing her release from jail in Russia on Monday.
The network cited administration officials, who also said that it is not yet clear whether the response will be in writing, through a phone call, or otherwise.
One official told NBC: “He will certainly respond soon.”
What is hashish oil and how did it land Brittney Griner in a Russian courtroom?
According to the Russians, Mr Griner allegedly packed hashish oil in her bag, likely in the form of a vape.
It was that discovery that led to her now five month detention in Russia. On Friday, Ms Griner appeared in Russian court for the first time and faced charges of smuggling less than a gram of hash oil inside of her luggage. If convicted, she could face up to 10 years in prison.
But what is it?
Ms Griner’s appeared for her first court hearing on Friday
UConn star urges Biden to bring ‘hero’ Griner home
UConn women’s basketball star Paige Bueckers is the latest athlete to call on the Biden administration to bring Brittney Griner home.
In an appearance on ESPN’s NBA Today, Ms Bueckers said: “Just a message to President Biden, the government, and anybody with high enough power to help get Brittney Griner back home. I believe it’s way far due for her to come home, and she’s an American. She’s a hero. She’s our sister in the WNBA, and she’s just family to the whole United States. So, just whatever it takes to get her home, I think it’s definitely time.”
Biden and Harris speak with Brittney’s wife Cherelle
President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris have spoken with Cherelle Griner following her criticism of the administration for its apparent inaction to free her wife from incarceration in Russia.
Per the White House:
President Biden, joined by Vice President Harris, spoke today with Cherelle Griner, the wife of Brittney Griner who is wrongfully detained in Russia under intolerable circumstances. The President called Cherelle to reassure her that he is working to secure Brittney’s release as soon as possible, as well as the release of Paul Whelan and other US nationals who are wrongfully detained or held hostage in Russia and around the world. He also read her a draft of the letter the President is sending to Brittney Griner today.
The President offered his support to Cherelle and Brittney’s family, and he committed to ensuring they are provided with all possible assistance while his administration pursues every avenue to bring Brittney home. Today’s call follows recent calls that National Security Advisor Sullivan and Secretary of State Blinken have had with Cherelle in recent weeks and this past weekend. The President directed his national security team to remain in regular contact with Cherelle and Brittney’s family, and with other families of Americans held hostage or wrongfully detained abroad, to keep them updated on efforts to secure the release of their loved ones as quickly as possible.
Brittney Griner ‘only playing’ in Russia due to gender pay gap, says US teammates
Basketball star Brittney Griner - who appeared in a court in Moscow this week - was only playing in Russia because of the low wages paid to women athletes in the US, which her friends and colleagues say make it tough to make a living.
Griner, 31, who was brought to a court in the Moscow suburb of Khimki in handcuffs, has been charged with drug smuggling after she was arrested at an airport allegedly carrying cannabis oil in her luggage. She faces up to ten years in jail if convicted.
Her supporters say she is the victim of wrongful arrest and have called on President Joe Biden and others to press for her release. She was detained one week before Russia invaded Ukraine.
Her wife, Cherelle Griner, told CNN she’s struggled to keep her composure, while urging the US authorities to do more.
Andrew Buncombe has more.
‘As painful as this is - it’s going to force us to have a real conversation’
Biden calls Brittney Griner’s wife after she attacked him for failing to help WNBA star
President Biden and vice-president Harris spoke on Wednesday with the wife of Brittney Griner, the WNBA star who has been detained in Russia since February.
Ms Griner’s family, including wife Cherelle Griner, have been critical of the White House, saying the president hasn’t done enough to free the Phoenix Mercury player from an unjust detention on minor drug charges.
Josh Marcus reports.
WNBA star has been in detention since February
Brittney Griner’s ‘Heart and Sole’ shoe donation programme continues during lockup
Brittney Griner isn’t just known for her high-flying achievements on the court as a member of the WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury.
The detained basketball star also started a programme in the city called Heart and Sole that donates shoes to unhoused people walking the hot streets of Arizona barefoot.
Here’s more about the initiative, courtesy of ESPN.
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