Saturday August 6, 2022

WNBA star Brittney Griner appeared in a Russian court shackled in handcuffs and flanked by officers for a preliminary hearing ahead of her trial.

Photos of the two-time Olympic gold medalist showed Ms Griner as she was led into a courtroom on Monday, more than four months after she was arrested at a Moscow airport for cannabis possession.

The Phoenix Mercury star, considered in some polls to be the United States’ most gifted female athlete, could face 10 years in prison if convicted on charges of large-scale transportation of drugs. Fewer than 1 per cent of defendants in Russian criminal cases are acquitted, and unlike in the US, acquittals can be overturned.

A lawyer for Ms Griner, Aleksandr Boikov, said the trial for the basketball star will begin on Friday, 1 July.


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Ms Griner was recently ordered to remain in pretrial detention until 2 July. The hearing in the court of the Moscow suburb of Khimki is to address procedural issues.

Video footage shared by the official state agency TASS showed that Ms Griner didn’t speak following the brief court appearance, according to the New York Times.

Ms Griner’s detention and trial come at an extraordinarily low point in Moscow-Washington relations. She was arrested at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport less than a week before Russia sent troops into Ukraine, which aggravated already-high tensions with sweeping sanctions by the United States and Russia’s denunciation of U.S. weapon supplies to Ukraine.

Amid the tensions, the pro-athlete’s supporters had taken a low profile in hopes of a quiet resolution, until May, when the State Department reclassified her as wrongfully detained and shifted oversight of her case to its special presidential envoy for hostage affairs — effectively the US government’s chief negotiator.

The detained American athlete’s lawyer told the Times that Ms Griner had no complaints about her pretrial detention centre and that he expects the trial itself to last no more than two months, which might shift depending on the court’s workload.

“It is hot in Moscow, so she feels that too, especially while being transportated to the court,” Ms Griner’s attorney told the Times in an interview on Monday.

With files from the Associated Press.


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