Lawyers for Brittney Griner claimed on Friday that the American basketball star had a medical prescription for the drug she had mistakenly transported to Russia, where she has been detained for nearly five months amid escalating tensions between Moscow and Washington over the war in Ukraine.
As Ms Griner’s drug trial resumed in a courtroom outside Moscow, her defense team provided medical documents showing she had a prescription for medical cannabis for chronic pain, according to Reuters.
Russian authorities accused Ms Griner in February of having two vape cartridges containing hashish oil – a derivative of cannabis – in her luggage at an airport near Moscow. The 31-year-old Phoenix Mercury star and two-time Olympic gold medalist had traveled there to play with Russian team UMMC Yekaterinburg during the WNBA offseason.
She was charged with willfully smuggling vape cartridges, in violation of Russian laws prohibiting the importation of narcotics.
Ms Griner pleaded guilty last week, telling the judge she had ‘no intention’ of breaking the law. In the Russian justice system, the trial continues even after the defendants plead guilty.
Her lawyers argued that she packed her bags in a hurry. At Friday’s hearing, they provided evidence including “a doctor’s appointment for the substance which, due to an oversight by BG, remained among his possessions while crossing the border”, according to a statement from Maria Blagovolina, partner of the law firm. Rybalkin, Gortsunyan, Dyakin and partners.
Ms Griner has found herself caught in growing acrimony between the Kremlin and the Biden administration, which has pledged to do everything possible to secure her freedom. Facing a 10-year prison sentence if convicted, in a justice system that heavily favors the prosecution, Ms. Griner expressed her fear that she might never be freed and wrote in a recent letter to President Biden: “S ‘please don’t forget me.”
His case has galvanized support across the American sports world and beyond. As she sat behind bars in the courtroom on Friday, Ms Griner, wearing a Nirvana t-shirt, held up a photo of WNBA players wearing her number during last week’s All-Star Game in Chicago.
His lawyers also presented evidence, including praise from Russian and American organizations. A day earlier, the manager of UMMC Yekaterinburg, the team doctor and another player testified in his defense, praising his athletic ability and character.
Despite mounting pressure for the United States to reach a deal to release Ms Griner, possibly through a prisoner exchange, Russian officials have played down the possibility of an imminent resolution and insisted that no negotiation could not take place until the legal proceedings were completed.
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Post expires at 11:16pm on Thursday July 21st, 2022