MOSCOW | American basketball player Brittney Griner announced Thursday at her trial that she pleaded guilty to drug smuggling, after she was arrested in February in possession of a cannabis-based liquid at a Moscow airport.
“I wish to plead guilty to all charges,” she told the court, adding that she however “did not intend to violate Russian law.”< /p>
“I was in a hurry while packing and the cartridges accidentally ended up in my bag,” she said, explaining the presence of cannabis-based liquid in her luggage.
Immediately after her speech, the hearing was adjourned until July 14, when she will be heard and questioned by the court.
The Phoenix Mercury player, who faces a heavy sentence from prison, was arrested in February when she arrived at Moscow's Sheremetyevo airport in possession, according to the charge, of vaporizers and a cannabis-based liquid.
Brittney Griner was traveling to Russia to play there during the U.S. offseason, a common practice for WNBA female basketball players who often make a much better living abroad than at home.
Russia denounces American “public hype”
Russian diplomacy on Thursday denounced the “public hype” of American leaders on the case of basketball player Brittney Griner, tried and detained in Russia for trafficking drugs, an issue that Joe Biden has made a “priority”.
“The public hype that contemporary politicians are so fond of can only be embarrassing in this concrete case. Not only does this divert attention from the case, but it parasitizes it,” according to Russian news agencies, Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov.
“What can to help (…) it is the consideration by the American part of signals that they receive from Russia”, he still dropped.
The day before, the White House had assured that releasing Brittney Griner, imprisoned in Russia since February, was a “priority” for the American president, who read a poignant letter from the sportswoman and spoke with his wife.
Before that, against the background of the continued deterioration of Russian-American relations, in particular with the Russian offensive against Ukraine, the highest authorities in Washington declared that Russia was “unfairly” holding the limelight of 2 min 3 sec.
The Russian warning comes on the day of the second hearing in Ms Griner's trial, which faces up to 10 years in prison. She was tried in Khimki court, a suburb of Moscow.
The Phoenix Mercury player was arrested in February when she arrived at Moscow's Sheremetyevo airport in possession, according to charges, of vapes and a cannabis-based liquid.
Brittney Griner is traveled to Russia to play there during the American offseason, a common practice for WNBA basketball players who often make a much better living abroad than at home.
According to the Russian Deputy Minister, we must wait for the epilogue of this trial, while some are already betting on a possible exchange of prisoners between the United States and Russia.
“It is clear that not all legal proceedings have been completed with us. Until that's done, we can't talk about what's next,” said the diplomat.
In view of Russian case law in similar cases, this 31-year-old woman can expect a heavy sentence, to be served in a Russian penal colony.
Detained in a Russian prison, the basketball player wrote a letter to Joe Biden symbolically deposited at the White House on Monday, the day of the independence of the United States, imploring the president not to “forget it”.
“I know very well that you have to deal with a lot of things, but please don’t forget about me and the other American prisoners,” Brittney Griner said from her cell, saying she was “terrified to be here forever”.
On Wednesday, Joe Biden called Cherelle Griner, the basketball player's wife, to “reassure her that he is working to secure Brittney's release as quickly as possible,” according to the White House.
Americans and Russians accuse each other of detaining their respective nationals for political purposes. Several prisoner exchanges have taken place in the past.
In April, former US Marine Trevor Reed, sentenced to nine years in prison in Russia for abuses he denied, was exchanged for a Russian pilot, Konstantin Yaroshenko, imprisoned in the United States since 2010 for drug trafficking in connection with the FARC in Colombia.
Further exchanges of this type would be the subject of talks.
Among the most mentioned names, those of Paul Whelan, an American sentenced to 16 years in prison for espionage and who claims his innocence, and the famous Russian arms trafficker Viktor Bout, arrested in Thailand in 2008 and who serving a 25-year prison sentence in the United States.