KHIMKI, Russia — Brittney Griner was again in courtroom on Tuesday for her trial for hashish possession amid U.S. diplomatic efforts to safe her launch.
If convicted, the WNBA star and two-time Olympic gold medalist may face 10 years in jail. As her trial has progressed, the Biden administration has confronted rising public strain to get her launched.
In a unprecedented transfer, Secretary of State Antony Blinken final week spoke to his Russian counterpart, Sergey Lavrov, urging him to just accept a deal below which Griner and Paul Whelan, an American imprisoned in Russia on an espionage conviction, would go free.
The Lavrov-Blinken name marked the highest-level identified contact between Washington and Moscow since Russia despatched troops into Ukraine greater than 5 months in the past, the direct outreach at odds with U.S. efforts to isolate the Kremlin.
Folks aware of the proposal say it envisions buying and selling Griner and Whelan for the infamous arms dealer Viktor Bout. It underlines the general public strain that the White Home has confronted to get Griner launched.
White Home Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre informed reporters Monday that Russia has made a “dangerous religion” response to the U.S. authorities’s supply, a counteroffer that American officers don’t regard as severe. She declined to elaborate.
Griner has acknowledged there have been vape canisters containing hashish oil in her baggage when she was arrested at a Moscow airport in February. However she insisted that she had no prison intent and that the canisters ended up in her baggage as a result of she was packing swiftly. Griner performed for a Russian ladies’s basketball group within the WNBA low season.
To bolster her case, her protection attorneys introduced testimony from docs that she was prescribed hashish as a remedy for ache. Medical marijuana remedy just isn’t authorized in Russia.
Whereas judges have leeway to think about mitigating elements below Russian legislation, acquittals are uncommon and account for lower than 1% of circumstances in Russian prison prosecutions.
A conviction, nonetheless, may probably pave the way in which for Griner’s trade as Russian officers mentioned it may solely occur after the judicial course of is accomplished.
Tom Firestone, a Washington legal professional who previously served as authorized adviser on the U.S. Embassy in Moscow, mentioned Griner could possibly be handed a troublesome sentence as a manner for Russians “to maximise their leverage in negotiations.” He informed The Related Press that Russia “could need to let this play out a bit bit longer and attempt to extract extra concessions.”
Russian officers have scoffed at U.S. statements concerning the case, saying they present a disrespect for Russian legislation. They remained poker-faced, urging Washington to debate the problem by “quiet diplomacy with out releases of speculative data.”
Eric Tucker in Washington DC contributed to this story.