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Sport Brittney Griner back in Russian court on cannabis charge

12:21  02 august  2022
12:21  02 august  2022 Source:   ap.org

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KHIMKI, Russia (AP) — Brittney Griner was back in court on Tuesday for her trial for cannabis possession amid U.S. diplomatic efforts to secure her release.

WNBA star and two-time Olympic gold medalist Brittney Griner stands behind bars in a courtroom for a hearing, in Khimki just outside Moscow, Russia, Tuesday, Aug. 2, 2022. Since Brittney Griner last appeared in her trial for cannabis possession, the question of her fate expanded from a tiny and cramped courtroom on Moscow's outskirts to the highest level of Russia-US diplomacy. (Evgenia Novozhenina/Pool Photo via AP) © Provided by Associated Press – Sports WNBA star and two-time Olympic gold medalist Brittney Griner stands behind bars in a courtroom for a hearing, in Khimki just outside Moscow, Russia, Tuesday, Aug. 2, 2022. Since Brittney Griner last appeared in her trial for cannabis possession, the question of her fate expanded from a tiny and cramped courtroom on Moscow's outskirts to the highest level of Russia-US diplomacy. (Evgenia Novozhenina/Pool Photo via AP)

If convicted, the WNBA star and two-time Olympic gold medalist could face 10 years in prison. As her trial has progressed, the Biden administration has faced growing public pressure to get her released.

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In an extraordinary move, Secretary of State Antony Blinken last week spoke to his Russian counterpart, Sergey Lavrov, urging him to accept a deal under which Griner and Paul Whelan, an American imprisoned in Russia on an espionage conviction, would go free.

WNBA star and two-time Olympic gold medalist Brittney Griner is escorted in a court prior to a hearing, in Khimki, just outside Moscow, Russia, Tuesday, Aug. 2, 2022. Since Brittney Griner last appeared in her trial for cannabis possession, the question of her fate expanded from a tiny and cramped courtroom on Moscow's outskirts to the highest level of Russia-US diplomacy. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko) © Provided by Associated Press – Sports WNBA star and two-time Olympic gold medalist Brittney Griner is escorted in a court prior to a hearing, in Khimki, just outside Moscow, Russia, Tuesday, Aug. 2, 2022. Since Brittney Griner last appeared in her trial for cannabis possession, the question of her fate expanded from a tiny and cramped courtroom on Moscow's outskirts to the highest level of Russia-US diplomacy. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko)

The Lavrov-Blinken call marked the highest-level known contact between Washington and Moscow since Russia sent troops into Ukraine more than five months ago, the direct outreach at odds with U.S. efforts to isolate the Kremlin.

Brittney Griner testifies in Russian court as US works to secure her release

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WNBA star and two-time Olympic gold medalist Brittney Griner is escorted in a court room prior to a hearing, in Khimki just outside Moscow, Russia, Tuesday, Aug. 2, 2022. Since Brittney Griner last appeared in her trial for cannabis possession, the question of her fate expanded from a tiny and cramped courtroom on Moscow's outskirts to the highest level of Russia-US diplomacy. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko) © Provided by Associated Press – Sports WNBA star and two-time Olympic gold medalist Brittney Griner is escorted in a court room prior to a hearing, in Khimki just outside Moscow, Russia, Tuesday, Aug. 2, 2022. Since Brittney Griner last appeared in her trial for cannabis possession, the question of her fate expanded from a tiny and cramped courtroom on Moscow's outskirts to the highest level of Russia-US diplomacy. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko)

People familiar with the proposal say it envisions trading Griner and Whelan for the notorious arms trader Viktor Bout. It underlines the public pressure that the White House has faced to get Griner released.

White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters Monday that Russia has made a “bad faith” response to the U.S. government’s offer, a counteroffer that American officials don’t regard as serious. She declined to elaborate.

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WNBA star and two-time Olympic gold medalist Brittney Griner speaks to her lawyers in a courtroom for a hearing, in Khimki just outside Moscow, Russia, Tuesday, Aug. 2, 2022. Since Brittney Griner last appeared in her trial for cannabis possession, the question of her fate expanded from a tiny and cramped courtroom on Moscow's outskirts to the highest level of Russia-US diplomacy. (Evgenia Novozhenina/Pool Photo via AP) © Provided by Associated Press – Sports WNBA star and two-time Olympic gold medalist Brittney Griner speaks to her lawyers in a courtroom for a hearing, in Khimki just outside Moscow, Russia, Tuesday, Aug. 2, 2022. Since Brittney Griner last appeared in her trial for cannabis possession, the question of her fate expanded from a tiny and cramped courtroom on Moscow's outskirts to the highest level of Russia-US diplomacy. (Evgenia Novozhenina/Pool Photo via AP)

Griner has acknowledged there were vape canisters containing cannabis oil in her luggage when she was arrested at a Moscow airport in February. But she insisted that she had no criminal intent and that the canisters ended up in her luggage because she was packing hastily. Griner played for a Russian women’s basketball team in the WNBA off-season.

WNBA star and two-time Olympic gold medalist Brittney Griner smiles behind bars in a courtroom for a hearing, in Khimki just outside Moscow, Russia, Tuesday, Aug. 2, 2022. Since Brittney Griner last appeared in her trial for cannabis possession, the question of her fate expanded from a tiny and cramped courtroom on Moscow's outskirts to the highest level of Russia-US diplomacy. (Evgenia Novozhenina/Pool Photo via AP) © Provided by Associated Press – Sports WNBA star and two-time Olympic gold medalist Brittney Griner smiles behind bars in a courtroom for a hearing, in Khimki just outside Moscow, Russia, Tuesday, Aug. 2, 2022. Since Brittney Griner last appeared in her trial for cannabis possession, the question of her fate expanded from a tiny and cramped courtroom on Moscow's outskirts to the highest level of Russia-US diplomacy. (Evgenia Novozhenina/Pool Photo via AP)

To bolster her case, her defense lawyers presented testimony from doctors that she was prescribed cannabis as a treatment for pain. Medical marijuana treatment is not legal in Russia.

Brittney Griner returns to Russian court as US floats proposal to secure her release

  Brittney Griner returns to Russian court as US floats proposal to secure her release American basketball star Brittney Griner was back in court for her drug possession trial in Russia on Tuesday, as the U.S. floats a proposal to secure her release. Your browser does not support this video Griner, a 31-year-old Houston native who plays professional basketball for the Phoenix Mercury, was returning to Russia for the WNBA's offseason when she was detained at Sheremetyevo International Airport in the Moscow suburb of Khimki on Feb. 17, after being accused of having vape cartridges containing hashish oil, which is illegal in the country.

While judges have leeway to consider mitigating factors under Russian law, acquittals are rare and account for less than 1% of cases in Russian criminal prosecutions.

A conviction, however, could potentially pave the way for Griner's exchange as Russian officials said it could only happen after the judicial process is completed.

Tom Firestone, a Washington attorney who formerly served as legal adviser at the U.S. Embassy in Moscow, said Griner could be handed a tough sentence as a way for Russians "to maximize their leverage in negotiations.” He told The Associated Press that Russia “may want to let this play out a little bit longer and try to extract more concessions.”

WNBA star and two-time Olympic gold medalist Brittney Griner is escorted in a courtroom for a hearing, in Khimki just outside Moscow, Russia, Tuesday, Aug. 2, 2022. Since Brittney Griner last appeared in her trial for cannabis possession, the question of her fate expanded from a tiny and cramped courtroom on Moscow's outskirts to the highest level of Russia-US diplomacy. (Evgenia Novozhenina/Pool Photo via AP) © Provided by Associated Press – Sports WNBA star and two-time Olympic gold medalist Brittney Griner is escorted in a courtroom for a hearing, in Khimki just outside Moscow, Russia, Tuesday, Aug. 2, 2022. Since Brittney Griner last appeared in her trial for cannabis possession, the question of her fate expanded from a tiny and cramped courtroom on Moscow's outskirts to the highest level of Russia-US diplomacy. (Evgenia Novozhenina/Pool Photo via AP)

Russian officials have scoffed at U.S. statements about the case, saying they show a disrespect for Russian law. They remained poker-faced, urging Washington to discuss the issue through “quiet diplomacy without releases of speculative information.”

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Eric Tucker in Washington DC contributed to this story.

WNBA star and two-time Olympic gold medalist Brittney Griner stands behind bars in  a courtroom prior to a hearing in Khimki just outside Moscow, Russia, Tuesday, Aug. 2, 2022. Since Brittney Griner last appeared in her trial for cannabis possession, the question of her fate expanded from a tiny and cramped courtroom on Moscow's outskirts to the highest level of Russia-US diplomacy. (Evgenia Novozhenina/Pool Photo via AP) © Provided by Associated Press – Sports WNBA star and two-time Olympic gold medalist Brittney Griner stands behind bars in a courtroom prior to a hearing in Khimki just outside Moscow, Russia, Tuesday, Aug. 2, 2022. Since Brittney Griner last appeared in her trial for cannabis possession, the question of her fate expanded from a tiny and cramped courtroom on Moscow's outskirts to the highest level of Russia-US diplomacy. (Evgenia Novozhenina/Pool Photo via AP) WNBA star and two-time Olympic gold medalist Brittney Griner holds up images as she stands behind bars in a courtroom for a hearing, in Khimki just outside Moscow, Russia, Tuesday, Aug. 2, 2022. Since Brittney Griner last appeared in her trial for cannabis possession, the question of her fate expanded from a tiny and cramped courtroom on Moscow's outskirts to the highest level of Russia-US diplomacy. (Evgenia Novozhenina/Pool Photo via AP) © Provided by Associated Press – Sports WNBA star and two-time Olympic gold medalist Brittney Griner holds up images as she stands behind bars in a courtroom for a hearing, in Khimki just outside Moscow, Russia, Tuesday, Aug. 2, 2022. Since Brittney Griner last appeared in her trial for cannabis possession, the question of her fate expanded from a tiny and cramped courtroom on Moscow's outskirts to the highest level of Russia-US diplomacy. (Evgenia Novozhenina/Pool Photo via AP)

Blinken says U.S. made offer to Russia for release of Brittney Griner, Paul Whelan .
The secretary of state said securing the Americans' release remains a "top priority" for the U.S."In the coming days, I expect to speak with Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov for the first time since the war began," Blinken said. "I plan to raise an issue that's a top priority for us: the release of Americans Paul Whelan and Brittney Griner, who have been wrongfully detained and must be allowed to come home. We put a substantial proposal on the table weeks ago to facilitate their release. Our governments have communicated repeatedly and directly on that proposal.

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