U.S. makes supply to Russia to convey Griner dwelling, as WNBA star testifies at drug trial

KHIMKI, Russia — American basketball star Brittney Griner testified at her drug possession trial in Russia that an interpreter translated solely a fraction of what was being mentioned whereas she was detained at Moscow’s airport in February and that officers informed her to signal paperwork, however “nobody defined any of it to me.”

The testimony by Griner, got here on the identical day that U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken mentioned Washington has provided a deal to Russia geared toward bringing dwelling the WNBA star and one other jailed American, Paul Whelan in a pointy reversal of earlier coverage. Particulars of the proposal weren’t introduced, although an individual acquainted with the matter mentioned the U.S. has provided to commerce convicted Russian arms vendor Viktor Bout for Whelan and Griner. The individual insisted on anonymity to debate an ongoing investigation.

Griner, testifying for the primary time in her trial, additionally mentioned that apart from the poor translation on the airport, she obtained no clarification of her rights or entry to a lawyer through the preliminary hours of her detention. She mentioned she used a translation app on her telephone to speak with a customs officer.

Griner has been held since mid-February after police mentioned they discovered vape cartridges containing hashish oil in her baggage. She has pleaded responsible to the fees however says she had no prison intent in bringing them into the nation and packed in haste for her return to play in a Russian basketball league through the WNBA’s offseason.

At one level in her testimony, her tone turned emotional as she mentioned she has all the time adopted the principles and tried to by no means let down her group.

“My profession is my complete life,” she mentioned. “I devoted the whole lot — time, my physique, time away from my household. I spent six months out of the yr away from everyone, and with an enormous time distinction.”

Her arrest got here at a time of heightened tensions between Moscow and Washington forward of Russia sending troops into Ukraine later that month. The slow-moving trial and Griner’s 5 months of detention have raised robust criticism amongst teammates and supporters in the USA, which has formally declared her to be “wrongfully detained” — a designation sharply rejected by Russian officers.

Griner, 31, faces as much as 10 years in jail if convicted. Trials in Russia proceed even after a responsible plea, and there was hypothesis that her admission was a bid to maneuver the authorized course of alongside in hopes of a doable prisoner swap.

At first of Wednesday’s session, Griner’s attorneys requested that she be allowed to testify outdoors the cage that’s normal for defendants in Russian courts, arguing it was too small for the 6-foot-9 (206-centimeter) athlete to testify whereas standing. The decide denied the request however allowed her to talk whereas seated.

Throughout her testimony, the Phoenix Mercury standout and two-time Olympic gold medalist described making a grueling 13-hour flight to Moscow from Arizona whereas recovering from COVID-19. Griner mentioned she nonetheless doesn’t understand how the hashish oil ended up in her baggage however defined she had a health care provider’s advice for utilizing it to handle power ache from her sports activities accidents.

“I nonetheless don’t perceive to this present day how they ended up in my luggage,” Griner mentioned, including that she was conscious of the Russian legislation outlawing hashish oil and that she had not supposed to interrupt it.

“I didn’t have any intent to make use of or preserve in my possession any substance that’s prohibited in Russia,” Griner mentioned, including that she understood the fees in opposition to her.

“With them being by accident in my luggage, I take duty, however I didn’t intend to smuggle or plan to smuggle something into Russia,” she mentioned.

She recalled being pulled apart at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport on Feb. 17 after inspectors discovered the cartridges.

Together with an interpreter who supplied solely a bare-bones translation, Griner mentioned she obtained neither an evidence of her rights nor fast entry to her lawyer, however as a substitute was offered with some papers.

“There have been paperwork that I needed to signal,” she mentioned. “I can solely assume that they had been concerning the search and the cartridges.”

A lady who offered herself as an interpreter solely informed her the place to signal, however didn’t “clarify the contents,” Griner mentioned, and “I didn’t know precisely what I used to be signing.”.

She mentioned her rights “had been by no means learn to me, nobody defined any of it to me.”

At one level, she obtained on her telephone “and I contacted my partner, my sports activities agent and my membership group’s translator” in Yekaterinburg, the place she performs for a membership within the Ural Mountains metropolis.

“Nothing was ever defined to me totally in any respect,” Griner mentioned. “There was quite a lot of quick phrases – ‘signal right here’ – and at that time, I felt like being held in opposition to my will in order that’s why I contacted my household and my agent and requested for authorized illustration.”

After a number of hours, she was lastly allowed handy over her private belongings to a lawyer earlier than being led away in handcuffs, Griner mentioned. She mentioned she obtained solely a cursory translation of the fees in opposition to her through the investigation.

Griner described different cases of language confusion when an interpreter struggled to correctly translate the accusations in opposition to her throughout a gathering with a detective.

“The translations weren’t excellent,” Griner mentioned. “I bear in mind one time him receiving stacks of paper that he was presupposed to translate to me, and he checked out them for a quick second and (his) actual phrases had been: ‘Mainly you might be responsible.’”

Griner’s lawyer, Maria Blagovolina, informed reporters after Wednesday’s session that Griner “repeatedly underlined that she had no intention to convey the forbidden substances into Russia.”

The subsequent trial session was set for Aug. 2. Griner’s trial started July 1 within the Moscow suburb of Khimki the place the airport is positioned, and it’s unclear how lengthy it’s going to final. The courtroom has held 5 earlier periods that had been quick, and her detention has been approved till Dec. 20.

On Tuesday, a Russian neuropsychologist testified about international use of medicinal hashish, which is unlawful in Russia. Griner’s protection group has submitted to the courtroom a U.S. physician’s letter recommending she use hashish for ache.

Griner mentioned Wednesday she used medicinal hashish for reduction from ache on account of accidents sustained throughout her profession, including that it’s broadly used within the U.S. as a result of it has fewer detrimental results than another painkillers

A Russian International Ministry spokesperson mentioned final week that the legalization of hashish for medical and leisure use in elements of the U.S. had no bearing on what occurs in Russia.

Elizabeth Rood, the U.S. Embassy’s cost d’affaires who has been attending the trial, mentioned American officers “are going to proceed to observe the case of Ms. Griner very intently, in addition to the case of all U.S. residents detained or in jail in Russia.”

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