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Brittney Griner trial: Here’s what we’ve learned after her latest testimony


This week’s trial proceedings in Russia over WNBA star Brittney Griner’s detention have shed extra mild on the main points of her arrest, together with her testimony that she wasn’t supplied key data on her rights granted beneath Russian legislation.

Seated in a courtroom close to Moscow Wednesday, Griner denied accusations from prosecutors of drug smuggling and mentioned she did not intend to deliver hashish oil present in her baggage in February into Russia in any respect.

Griner pleaded guilty to the costs earlier this month in an try to mitigate her sentence, which could possibly be as much as 10 years in jail. Her arrest and trial have been the supply of international outcry, and the US State Division has labeled her detention as wrongful.

But as her trial is predicted to proceed into subsequent month, CNN has realized the Biden administration provided Russia a prisoner exchange of Griner and fellow detained American Paul Whelan for a convicted Russian arms trafficker serving a 25-year sentence within the US – a proposal that Griner’s Russian attorneys say caught them unaware.

Listed here are the newest developments in Griner’s trial and what might lie forward:

Brittney Griner holds photographs standing inside a defendants' cage before a hearing at a court outside Moscow Wednesday.

After being stopped by personnel on the Sheremetyevo Worldwide Airport on February 17 and requested to open her baggage, Griner’s baggage was discovered to comprise what amounted to less than one gram of hashish oil, based on Russian prosecutors.

No lawyer was current, Griner testified, and she or he mentioned her rights weren’t defined to her, which, based on Russian legislation, ought to have occurred inside three hours. These rights would come with her proper to know what she was suspected of and to have entry to a protection lawyer from the second she was detained – together with the flexibility to have a personal assembly earlier than her first interrogation by authorities.

Griner signed paperwork that have been unclear to her, she mentioned, and she or he had to make use of Google Translate on her telephone to attempt to make sense of what was occurring.

Griner’s detention, search and arrest have been “improper,” Alexander Boykov, one in all her attorneys, mentioned Wednesday. Extra particulars could be revealed, he mentioned, throughout closing arguments anticipated to happen “in a fashion of a few weeks.”

The 2-time Olympic gold medalist was conscious of Russian drug legal guidelines, she testified, and the hashish oil was in her baggage because of “stress packing” in a rush.

“I nonetheless don’t perceive to today how they ended up in my baggage,” Griner mentioned.

Griner “confirmed that she had a physician’s prescription for using medical hashish,” which “is kind of a well-liked remedy amongst skilled athletes. She emphasised that she by no means deliberate to deliver it to Russia and use it,” lawyer Maria Blagovolina advised reporters after the listening to.

A knee damage compelled her right into a wheelchair for 4 months, Griner advised the court docket, and she or he used the substance for infected knee and ankle joints. She additionally emphasised she didn’t use it earlier than tournaments to stop potential disqualifications.

“No, I might by no means danger that. I by no means wished to harm my crew,” Griner mentioned. She was tested for drugs, her attorneys beforehand mentioned, and was clear.

Griner “defined to the court docket that she is aware of and respects Russian legal guidelines and by no means supposed to interrupt them,” Blagovolina mentioned. Griner additionally advised the court docket she loved taking part in basketball in Russia through the WNBA’s offseason and that her membership, UMMC Ekaterinburg, grew to become a second house to her, Blagovolina mentioned.

“We proceed to insist that, by indiscretion, in a rush, she packed her suitcase and didn’t take note of the truth that substances allowed to be used in the US ended up on this suitcase and arrived within the Russian Federation,” Boykov mentioned.

Amid Griner’s detention and trial, months of inside debate by the Biden administration culminated in a suggestion by the US to alternate Griner and Whelan – whose Russian jail sentence has been denounced by the US as unfair – with convicted arms supplier Viktor Bout, folks briefed on the matter inform CNN.

The plan received the backing of President Joe Biden and overrides opposition from the Division of Justice, which usually frowns upon prisoner trades, based on the sources.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken mentioned Biden was “straight concerned” and signed off on the proposal” introduced to Moscow, however he declined to offer additional particulars or confirm Bout as a part of the proposal. Blinken mentioned he additionally intends to talk with Russian Overseas Minister Sergey Lavrov within the coming days – their first dialog since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Griner’s attorneys, Blagovolina and Boykov, realized of the potential swap by way of information stories, they mentioned. Whereas not taking part in these discussions, the 2 mentioned they might be happy with any productive outcomes.

“From the authorized perspective, the swap is feasible solely after the court docket reaches a verdict. In any case, we might be actually completely satisfied if Brittney will have the ability to come house and hope it is going to be quickly,” they mentioned.

Griner is because of return to Khimki regional court docket August 2.

Because the reporting of the proposed swap grew to become public, officers say households have been saved abreast of sure developments and supporters have expressed hope that the deal is accepted by Russia.

Nationwide Safety Council communications coordinator John Kirby mentioned a senior administration official spoke with the households previous to Blinken’s announcement in regards to the proposal. Biden not too long ago spoke by telephone with Griner’s spouse, Cherelle, and Whelan’s sister, Elizabeth.

David Whelan, Paul’s brother, mentioned in an announcement, “Our household appreciates the Biden Administration in search of Paul’s launch utilizing the assets it has accessible. We hope the Russian authorities responds to the US authorities and accepts this or another concession that allows Paul to return house to his household.”

Trevor Reed, a Marine veteran who returned to the US in a prisoner swap earlier this yr after being detained in Russia for greater than two years, advised CNN’s Jake Tapper that he thinks Griner and Whelan “have a extremely good likelihood” of creating it house, “particularly contemplating the transparency that the administration has used on this.”

“I feel that, you recognize, if the Russians usually are not silly then they’ll take that supply,” Reed mentioned.

Rep. Colin Allred of Texas, who labored to cross a bipartisan House resolution calling for Griner’s launch, mentioned it was important listening to Griner’s testimony and that she has carried out her finest to current herself in court docket, nevertheless it will not be sufficient relying on how the Russian authorities reacts.

“The one motive we’re having this dialog is as a result of they’re attempting to make use of her for leverage in opposition to the US,” Allred advised CNN’s Wolf Blitzer. “Clearly we’re having to do no matter it takes to get her house, and I’m hoping this bundle can be accepted by the Russians.”

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