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Trial of Britney Griner in Russia to begin July 1

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Britney Griner will appear in court from July 1 in Russia, where she has been in custody for more than four months on drug possession charges.

Her lawyer, Aleksandr Boikov, confirmed the start date for CNN after the handcuffed WNBA star made a brief appearance on Monday at a preliminary hearing behind closed doors in a court in Khimki, Moscow Region, the Associated Press reported. The court ruled to extend her detention for six months pending trial, Boikov added. He told the New York Times that he expected her trial could take up to two months, depending on the court’s workload.

Video from NPR reporter shows two-time Olympic gold medalist input as well as care court, apparently without comment, in the custody of officials. She had previously been ordered to remain in pre-trial detention until 2 July.

Brian Whitmore, senior fellow at the Atlantic Council’s Eurasia Center and assistant professor at the University of Texas at Arlington, described Griner’s detention as a “hostage situation” and her trial as an exercise in “political theater” designed to put pressure on the US government. in exchange of prisoners.

“They want to trade her,” Whitmore said, “and they’ll drag it out until they get what they want.”

Rep. Colin Allred (R-Tex.) said Griner “is a political prisoner by intent and purpose” and her fans should be prepared for a “sham” trial that will result in a guilty verdict and jail time.

“All of this will mean nothing, and I will continue to work closely with the Biden administration to get her and all Americans detained overseas safe,” Allred said in a statement to The Washington Post.

Griner’s appearance in court on Monday and the upcoming trial, Allred added, “is a theater to give Russia the appearance of a fair judiciary, and her detention is something other than a deeply cynical geopolitical power play with a prominent American and increase pressure on negotiations about her release.

Griner, 31, who plays for the Phoenix Mercury, was pulled over on February 17, shortly before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, at Sheremetyevo International Airport and charged with carrying vape cartridges containing cannabis oil, which is illegal in Russia. Like many WNBA players who travel overseas during the off-season, Griner plays in Russia to supplement his income.

The U.S. State Department categorized Griner as “wrongfully detained.” This change in strategy showed that he would no longer wait for the case to pass through the Russian legal system and would take more aggressive steps to negotiate her release. If found guilty on charges of large-scale drug trafficking, she could face 10 years in prison. According to the Associated Press, less than one percent of defendants in Russian criminal cases are acquitted, and acquittals can be overturned.

Following Monday’s hearing, a State Department spokesman said: “We have no higher priority than the safety of US citizens abroad. The State Department found that the Russian Federation wrongfully detained US citizen Brittney Griner. The US Government will continue to provide appropriate support to Ms. Griner and her family. We will continue to push for her release.”

US authorities met with the team of Brittney Griner, WNBA star detained in Russia

Griner’s wife, Cherell, told the AP last week she had “zero confidence” in how the government would handle the situation after a planned phone call between the two fell through due to what the State Department said was “logistic error” associated with the US Embassy in Russia.

“I find this unacceptable and I have no confidence in our government right now,” Cherell Griner said. “If I can’t trust you to call back on Saturday after business hours, how can I be sure you’re negotiating on behalf of my wife to return home? Because it’s a much bigger request than picking up a call on Saturday.”

As her case gained more attention, supporters called for a prisoner swap, similar to how Marine Corps veteran Trevor Reid was exchanged in April for a Russian pilot convicted of conspiring with drug traffickers.

Russian media speculate that she could be exchanged for Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout, nicknamed “Merchant of Death”, who is serving a 25-year sentence on charges of conspiring to kill US citizens and aiding a terrorist organization. However, differences in their crimes make this unlikely for the US.

“They want to bring Viktor Bout back. He is connected to the highest echelons of the Russian government. This is an attempt to bring him back,” Whitmore of the Atlantic Council said. “It’s clear, [Biden] the administration is under increasing pressure from society, from friends and the Griner family. This is not an enviable position, because it is clear what the Russian government wants. It’s like negotiating with a terrorist.”


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