The trial of Brittney Griner reached its closing stage on Thursday, with the American basketball star showing in a Russian court docket for the beginning of closing arguments in a case that’s anticipated to finish with the conviction of Ms. Griner, who has been caught up within the deep disaster between Moscow and Washington over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
The verdict and sentencing are anticipated to be introduced on Thursday night in Moscow, in response to Maria Blagovolina, a companion at Rybalkin Gortsunyan Dyakin and Partners legislation agency who’s representing Ms. Griner. Her protection staff had beforehand stated it anticipated the case to complete by mid-August.
Mrs. Griner has been in custody in Russia since Feb. 17, accused by the Russian authorities of getting a vape cartridge with cannabis oil in her baggage at an airport close to Moscow. The drug expenses she faces carry as much as 10 years in jail underneath Russia’s felony code, and prosecutors in her case requested for a sentence of 9 and a half years. They additionally requested for a nice of 1 million rubles, about $16,600.
During one of many preliminary hearings in her case, Ms. Griner pleaded responsible to the cost however insisted that she had not supposed to interrupt Russian legislation. Under the Russian judicial course of, the trial proceeded, together with her legal professionals presenting proof geared toward softening the eventual sentence.
In feedback to the court docket on Thursday, Ms. Griner talked about her upbringing in Houston, the values her dad and mom instilled in her, together with “take possession to your tasks.”
“That’s why I pleaded responsible to my expenses; I perceive every little thing that has been stated towards me within the expenses towards me, however I had no intention to interrupt Russian legislation,” she stated. “I would like the court docket to grasp that it was an trustworthy mistake that I made whereas speeding and in stress making an attempt to get well post-Covid and simply making an attempt to get again to my staff.”
A two-time Olympic gold medalist who performs for the Phoenix Mercury within the WNBA, Ms. Griner has for years supplemented her earnings by taking part in in Russia throughout the low season. Her protection staff has been making an attempt to influence the decide to be lenient. “I’d wish to ask the court docket to acquit my shopper however, if the court docket deems this unimaginable, I believe that the penalty must be handed down with due account of Griner’s persona and the position she has performed within the growth of Russian basketball, Ms. Blagovolina instructed the court docket on Thursday. “There must be a milder penalty.”
Whatever her destiny within the Russian court docket, Ms. Griner has already been the topic of diplomatic bargaining. Russia and the United States have been exchanging indicators that she and one other American held in Russia might be a part of a prisoner trade involving a Russian arms supplier imprisoned within the United States.
Russian officers have stated that no progress in these negotiations may be made earlier than the court docket completes its trial.
The Biden administration has been underneath stress from Ms. Griner’s spouse and supporters to barter her freedom.
Last week, Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken stated that the US authorities had “put a considerable proposal on the desk” to the Russian aspect relating to Ms. Griner and different Americans held in Russian custody. mr. Blinken then mentioned the matter along with his Russian counterpart, Sergey V. Lavrov, final week, of their first telephone name since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, however no breakthroughs have been reported.
Russian officers have insisted that the diplomatic wrangling over Ms. Griner ought to stay behind closed doorways. Dmitri S. Peskov, the Kremlin’s spokesman, stated on Tuesday that negotiations over a possible prisoner trade “must be discreet.”
“Megaphone diplomacy and the general public trade of opinions won’t result in any outcome,” he stated.
Mrs. Griner arrived in a Moscow airport on Feb. 17, on her method to the Russian metropolis Yekaterinburg close to the Ural Mountains, the place she had been taking part in for an area staff throughout the WNBA low season. Customs officers checked her baggage, the place they discovered two vape cartridges containing lower than one gram of cannabis oil.
News of her detention was made public solely after Russia invaded Ukraine per week later. Mrs. Griner, 31, was charged with an try and smuggle a major quantity of banned narcotics into Russia.
She testified throughout the court docket hearings that the unlawful substance had been in her baggage because of an oversight whereas packing in a rush. Her protection staff famous that she was licensed to make use of medicinal hashish in Arizona to handle ache, which has develop into a typical observe amongst some American athletes.