Brittney Griner’s trial for cannabis possession has begun in Moscow

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WNBA superstar Brittney Griner has been a wrongfully detained person in Russia for longer than four months due to allegedly being found to have cannabis oil at the international airport. In May, the US government officially classified her as a “wrongfully detained person” and “shifted oversight of her case to its special presidential envoy for hostage affairs — effectively the U.S. government’s chief negotiator.” The US consular official has had limited access to Brittney and her wife wasn’t able to speak to her in a planned phone call.  Her detention has been extended three times, but the trial actually began last week.

American basketball star Brittney Griner went on trial Friday, 4 1/2 months after her arrest on charges of possessing cannabis oil while returning to play for a Russian team, in a case that unfolded amid tense relations between Moscow and Washington.

Griner, 31, was escorted into the courtroom in the capital’s suburb of Khimki while handcuffed and wearing a Jimi Hendrix T-shirt. At a closed-door preliminary hearing Monday, her detention was extended for another six months, to Dec. 20.

Police have said she was carrying vape canisters with cannabis oil when detained at the airport. She could face up to 10 years in prison if convicted of large-scale transportation of drugs.

The state-owned Tass news agency quoted Griner as saying in court that she understood the charges but would not comment further on them until later.

Alexander Boykov, an attorney for Griner, told reporters outside court that “I wouldn’t want to talk on the specifics of the case and on the charges and to comment on our position on it because it’s too early for it.”

Boykov also told RIA-Novosti that she has been exercising in the detention area. The Russian website Business FM reported that Griner, who smiled at times, said she wishes she could work out more and that she was struggling because she doesn’t understand Russian.

Fewer than 1% of defendants in Russian criminal cases are acquitted, and unlike in U.S. courts, acquittals can be overturned.

Elizabeth Rood, U.S. charge d’affaires in Moscow, was in court and said she spoke with Griner, who “is doing as well as can be expected in these difficult circumstances.”

She said the U.S. government, from its highest levels, “is working hard to bring Brittney and all wrongfully detained U.S. nationals home safely.”

Griner’s wife, Cherelle, has urged President Joe Biden to secure her release, calling her “a political pawn.”

[From ESPN]

Okay, was it hers or who gave her the Jimi Hendrix shirt? The defendant in a drug trial wearing the image of someone who died of a drug overdose definitely seems like it could cause a bias. I hope the shirt was hers and a mistake and not some nefarious sabotage effort. So far, two witnesses have appeared, an airport customs official and an unidentified witness who spoke in closed session, but the other two scheduled witnesses failed to show up. Weird. Neither Brittney nor her lawyer have commented on the case yet, saying it’s too early. A Russian website reported that in an interview they said Brittney has been exercising and wishes she could do so more, has been having a hard time with the language barrier, and “smiled at times.” Ugh, I hope she’s okay.  ESPN has more speculation on the prisoner exchange angle, mentioning an arms dealer that Russian media keeps raising for a swap and another American prisoner Brittney could potentially be traded alongside. Another American prisoner was already swapped with a Russian one in April.

Also, Brittney wrote a letter directly to the White House and President Biden. Brittney’s representatives released excerpts to an ESPN reporter yesterday. This is heartbreaking and I’m glad her people put this out there. I hope they bring Brittney safely home soon.

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20 Responses to “Brittney Griner’s trial for cannabis possession has begun in Moscow”

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  1. Aurora says:

    I don’t understand this case. Does “wrongfully detained” mean she was framed and the vape canisters weren’t hers? Did she break their laws or not? If she was carrying drugs that aren’t legal in Russia I don’t see how they can say she was wrongfully detained.

    • Colby says:

      I think the feeling is that, whether she broke the law or not, she was targeted as the war in Ukraine was beginning and the US was showing our support, so she was taken as a political prisoner.

    • Ameerah says:

      I mean if you’re someone who wants to believe the Russian government…

      • Wiglet Watcher says:

        You can’t take that angle in search for truth. Biased views are worthless in search for what happened.

      • detritus says:

        Another weird one…
        Why would you treat the Russian government, known for its lies and propaganda, as a reliable source?

        Wiglet, just say you don’t like Griner or haven’t moved past the War on Drugs. You don’t need to do this long form stuff.

  2. ThatsNotOkay says:

    Why did she vote for the first time…at 29 years old? That does not make me happy.

    Anyway, this is all political and Russia wants what it wants: 1. Ukraine, and 2. some real spies and probably assassins released, in exchange for an athlete actually wrongfully detained.

    Russia’s “government” is a three-year-old who has to win, and will dig in its heals unless you let it.

    • Nanny to the Rescue says:

      This. She is collateral victim of the war/politics, a bargaining chip.
      Because they can.

  3. girl_ninja says:

    I think that this all being fabricated by the Russian government. This is a lot off bull-sh*t by that country and it’s leader.

  4. JanetDR says:

    Let’s not jump to conclusions that the charges are legitimate! Her only way out will be political and I hope it is successful. And can we please pay women what they are worth?

    • Truthiness says:

      The last person who was freed from a Russian prison by a swap said that he does not believe she is guilty, he thought it was a plant. I pray they can get her home soon.

  5. Mina_Esq says:

    I am so scared for BG. Being an American prisoner in Russia is bad enough, but being an LGBTQ woman adds a whole another layer of risk. There is zero chance that she will be afforded any fairness in this sham of a trial. I pray that they get her out of there soon.

    • detritus says:

      I hope she’s ok after all of this and I do hope for a good outcome. She’s got a lot going against her though.

      No one deserves this over some weed.

      • Wiglet Watcher says:

        I am on the cannabis industry now and I do not use or appreciate the value the use of “oil” aka rosin. It’s far more potent and not just “some weed” at that point.

      • detritus says:

        I’m sorry, but that is a silly comment.

        You’re a toxicologist, Wiglet? A public health researcher? The dose makes the poison, as does the ingestion method. Roisin is no more dangerous than hash or other distillates. What weird scare mongering from someone ‘in the industry’.

        Let me be clearer too, no one deserves to be detained for personal drug use. The fact that Russia has laws against it doesn’t mean those law are ethical.

        But I mean, go off on the queer black woman stranded in an anti-woman, anti-black, anti-lgbt nation because of her emai… I mean roisin.

  6. Eowyn says:

    It’s not lost on me that a queer Black woman is having to self advocate for her government to intervene on her behalf.

  7. Lizzie Bathory says:

    For those asking, it can be true that she was carrying cannabis products in violation of Russian law (something the authorities have likely allowed in the past because she was protected by the billionaire who owns the team she plays for there) AND that Brittney Griner is “wrongfully detained” under US law.

    A law was passed in 2020 to give the State Department broader powers to aid Americans detained abroad. Regardless of innocence, reasons a US citizen may be considered “wrongfully detained” can include:

    1) the person is detained primarily because they are a US citizen
    2) they’re being detained to influence US policy
    3) the country in which they are detained doesn’t have an independent or impartial judicial system, etc.

    This designation causes the case to be turned over to a Special Envoy with additional resources to bring the person home.

    • PixiePaperdoll says:

      I think BG is too smart to carry that through an airport. She’s been playing in Russia long enough to have a connection in-country (if she so desired).

  8. MoonTheLoon says:

    The shirt seems a deliberate bit of messaging from her captors. Her own clothes and belongings will have been confiscated when she was arrested. So either they fished this shirt back out of there or they brought it in especially for this event.

  9. MC@ says:

    Jimi Hendrix was also arrested, tried & acquitted (hopefully the same result as her) in Canada in 1969 for the same “crime”. It was a political message.

  10. jferber says:

    I hope she is released soon, like now.