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U.S. basketball star Griner admits Russian drugs charge but denies intent

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U.S. basketball star Griner admits Russian drugs charge but denies intent


This content was produced in Russia, a country where laws restrict coverage of Russian military operations in Ukraine

Khimki, Russia, July 7 (Reuters) – U.S. basketball star Brittney Griner pleaded guilty to a drug charge in a Russian court on Thursday, but denied she knowingly broke the law.

Days after she urged U.S. President Joe Biden to secure her release, Griner was speaking at a hearing in her second trial on drug charges, which carry a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison.read more

“I want to plead guilty, Your Honor. But I didn’t mean to. I don’t want to break the law,” Greener said softly in English, before translating it into Russian for the courtroom.

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“I want to testify later. I need time to prepare,” she added.

The next court hearing is scheduled for July 14.

Greener’s lawyers told reporters they wanted the lightest possible sentence.

“We, as her defense, explained to her the possible consequences. Britney stressed that she committed the crime out of carelessness and hastily preparing to board a plane to Russia, not with the intention of breaking Russian law,” one of them said. One of Maria Blagovolina said. Greene’s attorney.

“We certainly hope that this situation, combined with the defence’s evidence, will be taken into account in sentencing and that it will be mild.”

Two-time Olympic gold medalist Grener was detained at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport in February for vaping pods containing cannabis oil, which is illegal in Russia, and has been in custody ever since.

The WNBA’s Players Association issued a statement reiterating its support for the eight-time All-Star.

“What we do know is that the State Department has determined that Brittney Griner was wrongfully detained for a reason and will continue to negotiate her release,” the WNBPA said.

In a handwritten note earlier this week, Griner directly called on Biden to step up U.S. efforts to bring her home.

“I realize you’re dealing with so much, but please don’t forget me and other American detainees…” Greener wrote. “Please do your best to bring us home.”

The White House said Biden spoke with Greener’s wife on Wednesday, telling her he was working to get her released “as soon as possible.”read more

U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken said officials from the U.S. embassy in Moscow attended Greener’s trial and forwarded her a letter from Biden.

“We won’t let up until Britney, Paul Whelan and all other wrongfully detained Americans are reunited with their loved ones,” he tweeted, referring to espionage charges since 2018 Whelan, a former U.S. Marine detained in Russia.

‘chips’

U.S. officials and many athletes have called for the release of Griner — or “BG” as basketball fans call it — who say she was wrongfully detained.

Her case has also raised concerns that Moscow could use it as leverage to negotiate the release of a prominent Russian citizen detained in the United States.

Griner is a center for the National Women’s Basketball Association’s Phoenix Mercury team and, like several other U.S. players, played for UMMC Yekaterinburg in the Russian Women’s Super League to boost revenue during the WNBA offseason.

Russian authorities said there was no reason to believe that Greener’s detention was illegal, and that the case against her was not political, despite Moscow’s tension with the United States over Russia’s military intervention in Ukraine.

Moscow’s deputy foreign minister, Sergei Ryabkov, said on Thursday that it would be difficult to exchange prisoners with the United States and advised Washington to stop talking about Greener’s fate.read more

When asked about Ryabkov’s remarks, the State Department said it would not comment on speculation.

“The use of illegal detention as a bargaining chip poses a threat to the safety of everyone who travels, works and lives abroad. The United States opposes this practice everywhere,” a State Department spokesman said.

The Russian foreign ministry said that once the verdict is handed down, Griner can appeal her sentence or apply for clemency.

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Reuters reports Humeyra Pamuk and Amy Tennery Additional reporting Guy Faulconbridge, Mark Trevelyan, Angus MacSwan, Jonathan Oatis and Frances Kerry Editing

Our Standard: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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