U.S. basketball star Griner appears in Russian court

U.S. basketball star Griner appears in Russian court

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WNBA star and two-time Olympic gold medalist Brittney Griner is accompanied to a courtroom for a hearing, in Khimki simply outdoors Moscow, Russia, Monday, June 27, 2022.

Alexander Zemlianichenko|AP

More than 4 months after she was detained at a Moscow airport for marijuana ownership, a Russian court has actually set the start date of the criminal trial of U.S. basketball star Brittney Griner for July 1.

The Phoenix Mercury star was likewise bought to stay in custody throughout of her criminal trial. She might deal with 10 years in jail if founded guilty on charges of massive transport of drugs. Fewer than 1% of offenders in Russian criminal cases are acquitted, and unlike in the U.S., acquittals can be reversed.

On Monday, the court in the Moscow residential area of Khimki extended Griner’s detention for another 6 months after she stood for an initial hearing held behind closed doors. Photos acquired by the AP revealed her appearing in handcuffs. Griner had actually formerly been bought to stay in pretrial detention till July 2.

Griner’s detention and trial come at an extremely low point in Moscow-Washington relations. She was detained at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport less than a week prior to Russia sent out soldiers into Ukraine, which worsened already-high stress with sweeping sanctions by the United States and Russia’s denunciation of U.S. weapon materials to Ukraine.

Amid the stress, Griner’s fans had actually taken a low profile in hopes of a peaceful resolution, till May, when the State Department reclassified her as wrongfully apprehended and moved oversight of her case to its unique governmental envoy for captive affairs– efficiently the U.S. federal government’s chief mediator.

That relocation has actually drawn extra attention to Griner’s case, with fans motivating a detainee swap like the one in April that brought house Marine veteran Trevor Reed in exchange for a Russian pilot founded guilty of drug trafficking conspiracy.

Russian news media have actually consistently raised speculation that she might be switched for Russian arms trader Viktor Bout, nicknamed “The Merchant of Death,” who is serving a 25- year sentence on conviction of conspiracy to eliminate U.S. residents and supplying help to a terrorist company.

Russia has actually upset for Bout’s release for several years. But the disparity in between Griner’s case– she supposedly was discovered in ownership of vape cartridges consisting of marijuana oil– and Bout’s worldwide transactions in fatal weapons might make such a swap unpalatable to the U.S.

Others have actually recommended that she might be sold tandem with Paul Whelan, a previous Marine and security director serving a 16- year sentence on an espionage conviction that the United States has actually consistently referred to as a set-up.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, asked Sunday on CNN whether a joint swap of Griner and Whelan for Bout was being thought about, avoided the concern.

“As a general proposition … I have got no higher priority than making sure that Americans who are being illegally detained in one way or another around the world come home,” he stated. But “I can’t comment in any detail on what we’re doing, except to say this is an absolute priority.”

Any swap would obviously need Griner to initially be founded guilty and sentenced, then request a governmental pardon, Maria Yarmush, an attorney concentrating on worldwide civil affairs, informed Kremlin- moneyed television channel RT.