By JIM HEINTZ | Related Press
MOSCOW — Shackled and searching cautious, WNBA star Brittney Griner was ordered to face trial Friday by a court docket close to Moscow on hashish possession expenses, about 4 1/2 months after her arrest at an airport whereas returning to play for a Russian crew.
The Phoenix Mercury heart and two-time U.S. Olympic gold medalist additionally was ordered to stay in custody during her prison trial. Griner might face 10 years in jail if convicted on expenses of large-scale transportation of medicine. Fewer than 1% of defendants in Russian prison instances are acquitted, and in contrast to within the U.S., acquittals will be overturned.
At Monday’s closed-door preliminary listening to on the court docket within the Moscow suburb of Khimki, Griner’s detention was prolonged for one more six months. Photographs obtained by The Related Press confirmed the 31-year-old in handcuffs and searching straight forward, not like a earlier court docket look the place she saved her head down and lined with a hood.
Her detention and trial come at an awfully low level in Moscow-Washington relations. She was arrested at Sheremetyevo Airport lower than per week earlier than Russia despatched troops into Ukraine, which aggravated already-high tensions with sweeping sanctions by the USA and Russia’s denunciation of U.S. weapon provides to Ukraine.
Amid the tensions, Griner’s supporters had taken a low profile in hopes of a quiet decision, till Could, when the State Division reclassified her as wrongfully detained and shifted oversight of her case to its particular presidential envoy for hostage affairs — successfully the U.S. authorities’s chief negotiator.
Griner’s spouse, Cherelle, urged President Joe Biden in Could to safe her launch, calling her “a political pawn.”
Her supporters have inspired a prisoner swap just like the one in April that introduced house Marine veteran Trevor Reed in alternate for a Russian pilot convicted of drug trafficking conspiracy.
Russian information media have repeatedly raised hypothesis that she could possibly be swapped for Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout, nicknamed “The Service provider of Loss of life,” who’s serving a 25-year sentence on conviction of conspiracy to kill U.S. residents and offering support to a terrorist group.
Russia has agitated for Bout’s launch for years. However the discrepancy between Griner’s case — she allegedly was present in possession of vape cartridges containing hashish oil — and Bout’s international dealings in lethal weapons might make such a swap unpalatable to the U.S.
Others have prompt that she could possibly be traded in tandem with Paul Whelan, a former Marine and safety director serving a 16-year sentence on an espionage conviction that the USA has repeatedly described as a set-up.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, requested Sunday on CNN whether or not a joint swap of Griner and Whelan for Bout was being thought of, sidestepped the query.
“As a normal proposition … I’ve obtained no increased precedence than ensuring that People who’re being illegally detained in a method or one other all over the world come house,” he mentioned. However “I can’t remark in any element on what we’re doing, besides to say that is an absolute precedence.”
Any swap would apparently require Griner to first be convicted and sentenced, then apply for a presidential pardon, Maria Yarmush, a lawyer specializing in worldwide civil affairs, informed Kremlin-funded TV channel RT.