WNBA star Brittney Griner was once again in a Russian courtroom as her trial on drug charges continues amid calls for the federal government to secure her release and return to the U.S.
Griner, 31, was on trial after being arrested in February, accused of carrying vape canisters containing cannabis oil. She’s charged with large-scale transportation of drugs, The Associated Press reported.
The Phoenix Mercury center faces a 10-year prison term if convicted of the original charges.
Update 10:03 a.m. EDT July 7: Russian media reported that Griner has pleaded guilty to drug possession and smuggling charges, according to the AP.
Griner entered her plea through an interpreter, the AP reported
Griner said in court that she had packed in a hurry and didn’t mean to break Russian law when she brought cannabis into the country, NPR reported.
Griner left court without giving a statement, CNN reported. She will appear at another hearing on July 14.
Original report: Her trial began last week but was adjourned shortly after beginning after two witnesses who had been scheduled to testify did not show up in court.
Delays are not uncommon in the Russian court and the two-time Olympic gold medalist’s detention has been approved to last through Dec. 20, the AP reported.
The U.S. State Department calls Griner wrongfully detained and has moved her case to the special presidential envoy for hostage affairs.
President Joe Biden also called Griner’s wife on Wednesday, telling her that he’s doing what he can to get Griner released as soon as possible. Griner had written a letter to Biden telling him that she was afraid that she would never return home. She also said that her teammates are suffering because of her legal woes, ESPN reported.
Brittney Griner made a direct appeal to President Biden for her freedom in a letter on Monday.— ESPN (@espn) July 4, 2022
The WNBA star has been detained in Russia for 137 days.
More: https://t.co/eQInQ3Ji91 pic.twitter.com/UMq4u2njbp
Even Republican lawmakers wrote to Biden just a month after Griner’s arrest, calling for her safe return, Politico reported.
Russian media said that Griner’s release could hinge on a deal that would release Russian arms trader Viktor Bout. Bout is serving a 25-year sentence after being convicted of conspiracy to kill U.S. citizens and providing aid to a terrorist organization.
Griner may also be released with Paul Whelan, a former Marine and security director who is serving a sentence after being convicted of espionage, the AP reported.
Griner was in Russia as she played for UMMC Ekaterinburg as part of the Russian Women’s Basketball Premier League during the WNBA’s offseason, The Washington Post reported.
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