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Brittney Griner Goes to Trial in Moscow Court Over Drug Charges

Brittney griner, an American basketball player, was taken into Russian custody in February after she was charged with drug smuggling.

Griner, who was accused of carrying marijuana oil in her baggage, was detained at Moscow’s airport on February 17.

“Being sufficiently aware that the movement of narcotic drugs is not allowed… no later than February 17, 2022 at an unspecified location under unspecified circumstances from an unidentified person [Griner] bought two cartridges for personal use, which contained 0.252 grams and 0.45 grams of hash oil, totaling 0.702 grams,” a prosecutor said in court on Friday, according to CNN.

CNN reported that the “prosecution argues that Griner intended to import the drugs into Russia’s territory and put the prohibited substances into a backpack and a suitcase,” and that cannabis oil “is subject to control in Russia and is classified as a narcotic drug.”

This Friday’s hearing is set to continue. Griner could spend up to 10 Years in Prison.

Griner, one of the most decorated women’s basketball players in history who stars for the Phoenix Mercury of the WNBA, has become a symbol in the deteriorating relationship between the United States and Russia. Her detention, coinciding with Russia’s internationally-condemned invasion of Ukraine, is widely seen as being politically motivated.

In May, the United States reclassified Griner as “wrongfully detained.”

It is becoming more likely that Russia may be seeking a prisoner exchange with the U.S. The New York Times reporting that the Kremlin appears to be linking Griner’s fate with that of Viktor Bout, a Russian arms dealer currently serving a 25-year federal prison sentence in the United States.

This could lead to President Joe Biden being in a diplomatic dilemma, according the Times.

“The vast disparity between the cases of Brittney Griner and Viktor Bout highlights the extreme difficulty President Biden would face if he sought a prisoner exchange to free Ms. Griner, the detained W.N.B.A. player from Moscow detention. The Biden administration, reluctant to create an incentive for the arrest or abduction of Americans abroad, would be hard-pressed to justify the release of a villainous figure like Mr. Bout,” the Times reported.

But the Biden administration is facing mounting pressure to secure Griner’s freedom. She has been supported by her peers from the sport community, who also urged the U.S. not to keep her in detention.

LeBron James’s brand, Uninterrupted, issued a message last month calling on Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris to continue to work for her release.

“For over 100 days, BG has faced inhumane conditions in a Russian prison and has been denied communications with her family and loved ones,” the message read. “As a decorated Olympian and member of an elite global sport community, BG’s detention must be resolved out of respect for the sanctity of all sport and for all Americans traveling internationally. It is imperative that the U.S. Government immediately address this human rights issue and do whatever is necessary to return Brittney home.”

Griner was returning from Russia with UMMC Ekaterinburg to end her season, when Griner was detained. Like many American women’s basketball players, Griner has long competed in Russia during the WNBA’s offseasons.

Even though she was detained in February of this year, it was several weeks before her release.

“We are aware of the situation with Brittney Griner in Russia and are in close contact with her, her legal representation in Russia, her family, her teams and the WNBA and NBA,” Griner’s agent, Lindsay Kagawa Colas, said after Russian authorities announced her arrest in March. “As this is an ongoing legal matter, we are not able to comment further on the specifics of her case but can confirm that as we work to get her home, her mental and physical health remain our primary concern.”