US basketball star Brittney Griner went on trial at a court near Moscow on Friday to hear drug charges that could be punishable by up to 10 years in prison.
Griner, 31, was told at this first hearing that she was charged with intentionally importing narcotics into Russia. The Phoenix Mercury player told the judge she understood the charges against her.
The two time Olympic gold medalist plays in Russia during the Women’s National Basketball Association’s off season. She arrived at Khimki City Court, outside of Moscow, in handcuffs and wearing a Jimi Hendrix T-shirt and sneakers without laces.
Griner was detained at a Russian airport in February, just a week before Russia invaded , after authorities found vape cartridges containing oil from cannabis in her bag
At the trial, she was accused by a prosecutor of smuggling less than a gram of cannabis oil into the country. The prosecutor argued that Griner intentionally brought the illicit substance into Russian territory.
‘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,’ the prosecutor said, according to Russian media TASS.
US Embassy Charge d’Affaires Elizabeth Rood, who attended Friday’s hearing, reiterated that US officials believe Griner has been ‘wrongfully detained.’
Speaking to Griner in the courtroom, Rood said: ‘She is doing as well as can be expected in these difficult circumstances and she asked me to convey that she is in good spirits and keeping up the faith.’
As Rood spoke, Griner was held in the defendant’s cage with a plastic bag of cookies and a bottle of mineral water.
Griner told a Reuters reporter that she found her detention difficult because she does not know the Russian language. She also said that it was taking a toll as it was impossible to keep up with her fitness routine.
‘The US government, from the highest levels, is working hard to bring Brittney and all wrongfully detained US nationals home,’ she added.
A second hearing in the trial will take place on July 7.
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