US basketball star Brittney Griner stands trial in Russia on drug charges
Moscow, Jul 1 (EFE).- The trial in Russia against US basketball player and Olympic and world champion Brittney Griner on drug smuggling charges opened on Friday in a court in Khimki, outside Moscow.
Only two foreign journalists were allowed into the courtroom, prompting protests from reporters who came to cover the hearing, where the prosecution is scheduled to present the charges and the order of the trial will be set.
Griner, 31, who plays for UGMK Yekaterinburg, was detained on February 17 at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport after customs officials found cannabis oil in her luggage.
The American, who has been playing for the Russian team since 2015, faces a prison sentence of up to 10 years for drug smuggling.
The basketball player’s family has turned to US president Joe Biden to secure Griner’s release, while both the WNBA and NBA have also urged Russian authorities to free her.
Griner’s arrest came amid heightened tensions between Moscow and Washington, which has raised suspicions of possible political motives behind the case.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov on Friday denied that the criminal proceedings against the basketball player have any political undertones.
“I cannot comment on the work of the judiciary. The facts show that the famous sportswoman was detained with prohibited substances containing narcotics,” Peskov said at his daily press conference, adding that this was a crime punishable by law.
Therefore, he said, the case “cannot be politically motivated.”
“I insist, this is just a finding of what she was detained with and what our legislation provides for. The verdicts are issued by the court,” Peskov said. EFE