American basketball star Brittney Griner appearing in Russian court


The American basketball star Brittney Griner is appearing in a Russian court for a third time after pleading guilty to drug possession charges last week.

The Phoenix Mercury player was arrested at Sheremetyevo Airport in Moscow on 17 February as she made her way back to Russia to play in the Women’s National Basketball Association off-season.

Police said they found vape canisters containing cannabis oil in her luggage.

Griner, 31, who has been in custody since then, pleaded guilty to charges that could land her a sentence of up to 10 years in prison.

The plea could be an effort to expedite the court proceedings.

In Russia, a guilty plea does not mean the trial is automatically over.

Griner’s defence may put forward arguments during the hearing to mitigate punishment, or a verdict could even be announced.

More on Russia

Griner is one of the WNBA’s biggest ever stars, widely considered the best offensive player in the league. She is also a double Olympic gold medallist.

Griner’s detention has been authorised until 20 December

At a plea hearing on 7 July, she said she had no intention of committing a crime and had acted unintentionally because she packed for Moscow in a hurry.

Read more:
Who is Brittney Griner?

US President Joe Biden and secretary of state Antony Blinken said they were doing all they could to win the release of Griner and other Americans the US considers “wrongly detained” by Russia, including former marine Paul Whelan.

But a senior Russian diplomat has said no action can be taken by Moscow until the trial is over.

Russian media has speculated Griner could be swapped for Russian arms trader Viktor Bout, nicknamed the Merchant of Death, who is serving a 25-year sentence in the US after being convicted of conspiracy to kill US citizens and providing aid to a terrorist organisation.

However, a Kremlin spokesman said on Thursday “We never comment on prisoner exchanges.”

Griner’s detention has been authorised until 20 December.


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