American basketball player Brittney Griner, bargaining chip between Russia and the United States

After six months in a Russian prison, the famous American basketball player, double Olympic champion Brittney Griner, pleaded guilty to all of her charges, during a hearing of her trial, Thursday, July 7. Russian justice accuses him of having engaged in a ” drug traffic “, punishable by ten years in prison for having introduced into the country a vaporizer accompanied by cartridges containing cannabis.

Dressed in a red t-shirt and sweatpants, the Phoenix Mercury player entered the courtroom of the court in Khimki (northern suburb of Moscow) handcuffed and escorted by several officers whom she was 2.03m tall. The star basketball player’s defense opted for a cautious line of non-confrontation with the Russian judiciary, admitting the facts while emphasizing the absence “intentionality” of the defendant who had written, the day before, to the American president, Joe Biden, a letter since made public where she implores him: “ As I sit in a Russian prison, alone with my thoughts and without the protection of my wife, my family, my friends, my Olympic jersey (…)I’m terrified to be here forever. »

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“I would like to plead guilty, your honor. But there was no intention. I didn’t want to break the law”, said the double gold medalist, speaking in a low voice in the English language, reports the Reuters news agency. The defendant’s remarks were translated into Russian in court. “I was in a hurry while packing and the cartridges accidentally ended up in my bag”added the player.

Brittney Griner’s detention at Sheremetyevo, Moscow’s international airport, was made public on March 5, although the 31-year-old basketball player was actually arrested on February 17, when she returned to Russian territory. She was planning to go to the Urals, where she is taking advantage of the American off-season to play for the Ekaterinburg team. When going through the airport security check, Russian customs officers discovered in his luggage several cartridges of electronic cigarettes containing hashish oil (legalized in several American states). The prosecution immediately opened a criminal case for drug trafficking against the basketball player.

A vitriolic portrait in the Russian media

This affair is part of a context of tensions linked to the conflict in Ukraine, many observers suspecting Russia of using this case for a future exchange of prisoners with the United States. Before the start of the second trial hearing on Thursday, Russian diplomacy had denounced the “public hype” American leaders around his case, believing that this “parasited” the case. “What can help (…)it is the consideration by the American side of signals that it receives from Russia »said Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov.

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