Griner Back In Court; White House Says Russia Made ‘Bad Faith’ Response To Offer

KHIMKI, Russia (AP) — American basketball star Brittney Griner was again in courtroom on Tuesday for her trial for hashish possession amid U.S. diplomatic efforts to safe her launch.

In the course of the listening to, prosecutors known as a state narcotics skilled who analyzed hashish present in Griner’s baggage. Her protection fielded a specialist who challenged the evaluation, charging that it was flawed and didn’t conform to official guidelines.

Griner was escorted into courtroom in handcuffs and positioned inside a cage within the trial in Khimki, a city on the northern fringe of Moscow. Whereas within the cage she held up private pictures.

The trial adjourned till Thursday, when closing statements are scheduled.

If convicted, the Ladies’s Nationwide Basketball Affiliation (WNBA) star and two-time Olympic gold medalist may face 10 years in jail. As her trial has progressed, the Biden administration has confronted rising public stress to get her launched.

In a unprecedented transfer, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken final week spoke to his Russian counterpart, Sergey Lavrov, urging him to simply accept a deal below which Griner and Paul Whelan, an American imprisoned in Russia on an espionage conviction, would go free.

WNBA star and two-time Olympic gold medalist Brittney Griner is escorted in a courtroom previous to a listening to, in Khimki, simply exterior Moscow, Russia, on Aug. 2, 2022. Since Brittney Griner final appeared in her trial for hashish possession, the query of her destiny expanded from a tiny and cramped courtroom on Moscow’s outskirts to the very best degree of Russia-US diplomacy.

AP Photograph/Alexander Zemlianichenko

The Lavrov-Blinken name marked the highest-level recognized contact between Washington and Moscow since Russia despatched troops into Ukraine greater than 5 months in the past, the direct outreach at odds with U.S. efforts to isolate the Kremlin.

Folks aware of the proposal say it envisions buying and selling Griner and Whelan for the infamous arms dealer Viktor Bout. It underlines the general public stress that the White House has confronted to get Griner launched.

White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre instructed reporters Monday that Russia has made a “bad faith” response to the U.S. authorities’s supply, a counteroffer that American officers don’t regard as severe. She declined to elaborate.

Griner has acknowledged there have been vape canisters containing hashish oil in her baggage when she was arrested at a Moscow airport in February. However she insisted that she had no legal intent and that the canisters ended up in her baggage as a result of she was packing rapidly. Griner performed for a Russian girls’s basketball staff within the WNBA low season.

To bolster her case, her protection attorneys have offered testimony from medical doctors that she was prescribed hashish as a therapy for ache. Medical marijuana therapy will not be authorized in Russia.

“There are a lot of factors that will taken by the court into account,” Griner’s lawyer Maria Blagovolina instructed reporters after Tuesday’s listening to, including that Griner “admitted that she did bring something, but we need to know what she did bring.”

Whereas judges have leeway to think about mitigating components below Russian legislation, acquittals are uncommon and account for lower than 1% of circumstances in Russian legal prosecutions.

A conviction, nevertheless, may doubtlessly pave the best way for Griner’s alternate as Russian officers stated it may solely occur after the judicial course of is accomplished.

Tom Firestone, a Washington lawyer who previously served as authorized adviser on the U.S. Embassy in Moscow, stated Griner could possibly be handed a troublesome sentence as a means for Russians “to maximize their leverage in negotiations.” He instructed The Related Press that Russia “may want to let this play out a little bit longer and try to extract more concessions.”

Russian officers have scoffed at U.S. statements in regards to the case, saying they present a disrespect for Russian legislation. They remained poker-faced, urging Washington to debate the difficulty by means of “quiet diplomacy without releases of speculative information.”

Requested in regards to the newest White House remark concerning the Russian counteroffer, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov wouldn’t supply any particulars.

“Any exchange of information on the subject should be discreet without any ‘loudspeaker diplomacy,’” he instructed reporters. “Public exchange of positions will not yield any result.”

Eric Tucker in Washington and Vladimir Isachenkov in Moscow contributed to this report.