Basketball player Brittney Griner, jailed in Russia for drug smuggling, pleads guilty

MOSCOW | American basketball player Brittney Griner announced at her trial on Thursday that she pleaded guilty to drug smuggling after she was arrested in February in possession of a cannabis-based liquid at a Moscow airport.

• Also read: Biden spoke to Brittney Griner’s wife

• Also read: Jailed since February, Brittney Griner writes to Joe Biden

“I want to plead guilty to all charges,” she told the court, adding that she “did not intend to violate Russian law.”

“I was in a hurry to pack and the cartridges accidentally ended up in my bag,” she said, explaining the presence of cannabis-based liquids in her luggage.

Immediately after her speech, the hearing was adjourned until July 14, when she will be heard and questioned by the court.

The Phoenix Mercury player, who faces a lengthy prison sentence, was arrested in February when she arrived at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport in possession of vaporizers and a cannabis-based liquid, according to prosecutors.

Brittney Griner traveled to Russia to play during the American off-season, a common practice for WNBA basketball players, who often fare much better abroad than at home.

Russia denounces US “public hype”.

Russian diplomacy on Thursday denounced the “public hype” by American leaders in the case of basketball player Brittney Griner, who was tried and jailed in Russia for drug trafficking, a file Joe Biden has made a “priority.”

“The public hype so fond of contemporary politicians can only be embarrassing in this particular case. This not only distracts from the case, but parasitizes it,” Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said, according to Russian press agencies.

“What can help (…) is for the American side to take into account the signals they receive from Russia,” he said.

The day before, the White House had assured that the release of Brittney Griner, who had been jailed in Russia since February, was a “priority” for the US President, who read a poignant letter from the athlete and spoke to his wife.

Earlier, amid an ongoing deterioration in Russo-US relations, particularly in light of Russia’s offensive against Ukraine, top officials in Washington said Russia had “unfairly” held the spotlight at 2-3.

scared

The Russian warning comes on the day of the second hearing in Ms Griner’s trial, which faces up to 10 years in prison. She is being tried in court in Khimki, on the outskirts of Moscow.

The Phoenix Mercury player was arrested in February when she arrived at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport in possession of vaporizers and a cannabis-based liquid, according to prosecutors.

Brittney Griner traveled to Russia to play during the American off-season, a common practice for WNBA basketball players, who often fare much better abroad than at home.

According to the Russian Deputy Minister, we must await the epilogue of this process, while some are already betting on a possible prisoner exchange between the United States and Russia.

“It is clear that all legal proceedings are still ongoing with us. Until it’s done, we can’t talk about the rest,” the diplomat said.

Given Russian jurisprudence in similar cases, this 31-year-old woman faces a hefty sentence, to be served in a Russian penal colony.

The basketball player, who is being held in a Russian jail, wrote a symbolic letter to Joe Biden on Monday, United States Independence Day, imploring the President not to forget it at the White House.

“I know very well that you have many things to contend with, but please don’t forget about me and the other American prisoners,” Brittney Griner said from her cell, saying she was “appalled at the idea of ​​being here until in all eternity.

prisoner exchange

On Wednesday, Joe Biden called Cherelle Griner, the basketball player’s wife, to “reassure her that he is working to secure Brittney’s release as soon as possible,” according to the White House.

Americans and Russians accuse each other of having imprisoned their respective nationals for political purposes. Several prisoner exchanges have taken place in the past.

In April, former US Marine Trevor Reed, who had been sentenced to nine years in prison in Russia for what he denied was violence, was swapped for a Russian pilot, Konstantin Yaroshenko, who has been in Colombia since 2010 for drug trafficking linked to the FARC was imprisoned in the United States.

Further exchanges of this kind would be the subject of discussions.

Among the names most frequently mentioned are Paul Whelan, an American who was sentenced to 16 years in prison for espionage and maintains his innocence, and the famous Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout, who was arrested in Thailand in 2008 and is serving a 25-year sentence in the United States US in prison.

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