In a court outside Moscow on Thursday, defense witnesses praised the athleticism and character of Britney Greener, the American basketball star – now one of the world’s most famous prisoners – who may have Drug charges face 10 years in prison.
Maksim Ryabkov, director of the Russian professional team UMMC Yekaterinburg, where Ms. Griner played, testified to her “excellent ability as a player and personal contribution to strengthening the spirit of the team,” said Maria Blagovolina, Ms. Griner’s attorney, Rybalkin, Gortsunyan, Dyakin and Partners of the company.
A week after Ms Greener pleaded guilty to drug charges, her trial resumed. Russian authorities have accused her of carrying an e-cigarette pod filled with cannabis oil in her luggage at an airport near Moscow on February 17, where she played during the WNBA offseason at UMMC Yekaterinburg. In the Russian judicial system, trials continue even if a defendant pleads guilty, but Ms. Greener’s lawyers said they hoped her guilty plea would make the court more lenient.
The trial is expected to continue on Friday.
The harshest outcome – a possible 10-year prison sentence – is still possible, even after Ms Greener’s lawyers argued she had mispackaged the smoking pack.
Despite U.S. pressure on her to reach a deal that could release her in a prisoner swap, Russian officials have stressed that no negotiations will take place until the proceedings are over and played down the possibility of an imminent resolution to Ms Greener’s case.
Asked about the possibility of a prisoner swap, Dmitri S. Peskov, a Kremlin spokesman, said Thursday: “We never discuss an exchange.”
Maria V. Zakharova, a spokeswoman for Russia’s foreign ministry, reiterated that any negotiations around Ms. Greener should be held out of the spotlight. She added that such talks would only come to fruition after a verdict in her case was reached, and urged U.S. officials to “abandon futile attempts to put pressure on us,” according to Interfax.
“The trial of Griner continues and it is often too early to discuss any options for her to go home until the trial is over,” Ms Zakharova said.
Ms. Greener, 31, one of the WNBA’s brightest stars and a two-time Olympic gold medalist with the U.S. women’s basketball team, was embroiled in Washington’s increasingly bitter relationship with Moscow during the war in Ukraine.
In a judicial system that is very pro-prosecution, where a guilty verdict is all but a foregone conclusion, Ms Greener’s chances of freedom may depend on whether U.S. officials can negotiate her release or whether she can be granted clemency after sentencing, legal experts said. Arrived.
Experts say her best hope is for a Biden administration to trade by releasing a Russian imprisoned in the United States. Russian media have linked her case to Victor Bout, a Russian arms dealer known as the “Death Merchant,” who is serving a 25-year sentence in Illinois on charges of conspiring to sell weapons to people who say he planned to kill Americans.
Criticized that Washington did not do enough to secure her release, Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken vowed that before Ms Greener and other “wrongly detained Americans” were brought home, The U.S. government will not back down.
The case also touches on issues of race, gender and sexual orientation. Ms. Greener, who is black and openly gay, worries many of her supporters have an even slimmer chance of a fair trial in Russia, a country where gays and lesbians often face discrimination.
American basketball superstar LeBron James recently appeared to criticize the US government’s efforts to bring Ms Greener home. “Now, how does she feel like America has her back?” Mr James said in a trailer for his TV show “The Shop: Uninterrupted”. “I would be like, ‘Do I even want to go back to America?'” he clarified in a tweet on Tuesday after the backlash that he “didn’t hit our beautiful country.”