American basketball star Griner due on Russian court

Moscow — More than four months later he was arrested at Moscow airport for cannabis possession, US Basketball Star Brittany Griner is due to appear in court on Monday for a preliminary hearing ahead of her trial.

The Phoenix Mercury star, considered by some polls to be the United States’ most talented female athlete, could face 10 years in prison if convicted of a charge of mass transportation of drugs. Less than 1% of defendants in Russian criminal cases are acquitted, and unlike the US, acquittals are reversible.

The date of the test has not been announced but is expected soon; Griner was recently ordered to remain in pre-trial detention until July 2. The hearing in the court of the Moscow suburb of Khimki is to address procedural issues.

Griner’s detention and trial come to an extraordinarily low point in Moscow-Washington relations. He was arrested at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport less than a week before Russia sent troops into Ukraine, which has already met with widespread sanctions by the United States and Russia’s condemnation of US arms supplies to Ukraine. The tension had escalated.

Amid tensions, Griner’s supporters had taken a low profile in hopes of a peaceful solution until May, when the State Department wrongfully detained him and transferred oversight of his case to its special presidential envoy for hostage cases. Transferred – effectively the US government’s chief negotiator.

That move has drawn additional attention to Griner’s case, with supporters encouraging a prisoner swap in April that brought maritime veteran Trevor Reid home in exchange for a Russian pilot convicted of a drug trafficking conspiracy.

The Russian news media has repeatedly speculated that he may be swapped for Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout, nicknamed “The Merchant of Death”, who is responsible for killing American civilians and providing aid to a terrorist organization. He is serving a sentence of 25 years for conspiracy to commit. ,

Russia has been agitating for years for the release of the bout. But the discrepancy between Griner’s case—she was reportedly found to be in possession of vape cartridges containing cannabis oil—and the bout’s global deals in lethal weapons could make such a swap unsuitable for the US.

Others have suggested that she may have been traded with Paul Whelan, a former maritime and security director serving a 16-year sentence for espionage, which the United States repeatedly called a set- as described above.

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

“As a general proposition … I see no greater priority than making sure that Americans who are being detained illegally around the world or in some other way, come home,” he said. But “I can’t comment in detail on what we’re doing, except to say it’s an absolute priority.”

Any swap apparently requires Griner to first plead guilty and be sentenced, then apply for the presidency, Maria Yarmush, a lawyer specializing in international civil affairs, told Kremlin-funded TV channel RT. told.

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