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Brittney Griner trial – live: Anger as WNBA star held in ‘tiny cage’ as Russia denies she is hostage



Brittney Griner being led from Russian courtroom on first day of trial

More than four months after her arrest in Moscow, US women’s basketball star Brittney Griner appeared in a Russian court on Friday for what was expected to be the beginning of her trial on drug charges.

The 31-year-old athlete was seen arriving at Khimki City Court outside of Moscow in handcuffs shortly after noon local time, with US embassy staff in attendance.

She then heard her charges, including intentionally transporting narcotics. Facing up to 10 years in prison in Russia, Griner accepted the charges and did not enter a plea, reports said.

A centre for the Phoenix Mercury, Griner had played for UMMC Ekaterinburg in Russia during the WNBA off-season, and was arrested on her way home when Russian airport officials say they found vape cartridges with traces of hashish oil – an offence in the country.

Lawyers for Griner – whose wife has pleaded for US President Joe Biden to meet with her and secure the WNBA’s star release – believe the trial will last two months, reports say. Proceedings resume on 7 July.

Ms Griner’s wife also revealed the 6 foot -inch tall basketball player is forced to endure five-hour roundtrip journeys to court in a “tiny cage”.

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Putin spokesman denies Russia holding Griner hostage

Dmitry Peskov told NBC News that Ms Griner was being prosecuted in accordance with Russian law after she was allegedly found with cannabis vape cartridges in her luggage, and gave no indication when the Olympic basketball star might be released.

Bevan Hurley has the story:

Oliver O’Connell1 July 2022 22:00

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Over 40 organisations call on Biden to do more to free Griner

In the letter, also addressed to Vice President Kamala Harris, Ms Griner’s allies wrote that the star “continues to endure inhumane treatment, deprived of contact with her family” and called on the administration to increase its urgency regarding the matter and “make a deal to get Brittney back home to America immediately and safely.”

Oliver O’Connell1 July 2022 21:00

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US basketball star a ‘political pawn’

Brittney Griner, an American basketball star, appeared in a Russian court on Friday, four months after she was arrested on cannabis possession charges at Moscow Sheremetyevo Airport while travelling to play for a Russian team.

Griner was arrested in February, just a week before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Police said she was carrying vape canisters with cannabis oil. The Phoenix Mercury star and two-time US Olympic gold medallist could face up to 10 years in prison if convicted of large-scale transportation of drugs.

Oliver O’Connell1 July 2022 20:00

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Recap: What happened to WNBA star Brittney Griner?

WNBA star Brittney Griner, 31, has been detained in Russia since February after drugs were allegedly found in her luggage by officials at a Moscow airport.

Her detainment occurred shortly before Russia launched its war in Ukraine, with geopolitical tensions making it undoubtedly more difficult to secure her release.

Ms Griner’s family, friends and fans — alongside many public figures — have been calling on Russia to free her for months and for the US State Department to intervene.

Oliver O’Connell1 July 2022 19:00

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What is hashish oil and how did it land Brittney Griner in a Russian courtroom?

According to the Russians, Mr Griner allegedly packed hashish oil in her bag, likely in the form of a vape.

Oliver O’Connell1 July 2022 18:24

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ICYMI: Brittney Griner appears in Russian court in shackles as trial start date announced

Today was not WNBA star Brittney Griner’s first day in court. She appeared in a Russian court on Monday, also shackled in handcuffs and flanked by officers for a preliminary hearing ahead of her trial.

Johanna Chisholm reports.

Oliver O’Connell1 July 2022 18:00

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What might a deal to free Brittney Griner from Russia look like?

Brittney Griner’s supporters have encouraged US authorities to negotiate a prisoner swap like the one in April that brought home Marine veteran Trevor Reed in exchange for a Russian pilot convicted of drug trafficking conspiracy.

Russian news media have repeatedly raised speculation that she could be swapped for Russian arms trader Viktor Bout, nicknamed “the Merchant of Death,” who is serving a 25-year sentence on conviction of conspiracy to kill US citizens and providing aid to a terrorist organisation.

Russia has agitated for Bout’s release for years. But the wide discrepancy between Griner’s case — which involves alleged possession of vape cartridges containing cannabis oil — and Bout’s global dealings in deadly weapons could make such a swap unpalatable to the US.

Others have suggested that she could be traded in tandem with Paul Whelan, a former Marine and security director serving a 16-year sentence on an espionage conviction that the US has repeatedly described as a setup.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, when asked on Sunday on CNN whether a joint swap of Griner and Whelan for Bout was being considered, sidestepped the question.

Oliver O’Connell1 July 2022 17:05

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Brittney Griner’s wife says 6’9” WBNA star forced into tiny cage for journeys to court

Brittney Griner’s wife says the WBNA she is forced into a tiny cage and driven for five hours every time she has to appear in court.

Cherelle Griner told CNN’s New Day on Thursday that her 6 feet and 9 inches tall wife has to endure a five-hour round trip from where is being detained to court, during which she is kept in a small cage and forced to bend her body to fit inside.

Cherelle said Brittney, also known as BG, told her she was “exhausted”.

”So BG is having to travel over five hours round trip when she goes to court in a very, very, very tiny cage with her knees bent, feet up to the ground because it’s not big enough for her to fit in.”

Oliver O’Connell1 July 2022 16:56

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Watch: Brittney Griner’s sister pleads for Russia free her

Brittney Griner’s sister pleads for Russia to ignore politics and free her

Oliver O’Connell1 July 2022 16:45

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Prosecutor unveils details of charges

A report by Russian news agency TASS details the charges against Brittney Griner as read out in court today.

“Being quite aware that it is banned to carry narcotic substances in the Eurasian Economic Union, she bought two cartridges holding 0.252 and 0.45 grams of cannabis oil, or 0.702 grams in total, for personal consumption from an unidentified person in an unidentified location and under unidentified circumstances but not later than February 17, 2022,” the prosecutor said, adding that later Griner put the prohibited substances in her backpack and suitcase in a bid to smuggle the drugs into Russia.

Oliver O’Connell1 July 2022 16:25



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