WNBA star Brittney Griner appeared in a courtroom just outside of Moscow on Friday to begin her trial more than four months after she was arrested in Russia for allegedly possessing a banned substance.
Russian prosecutors revealed their case against Griner, alleging that she was in possession of two cartridges containing 0.702 grams of cannabis oil February 17 when she was taken into custody at Sheremetyevo Airport with the intention of smuggling in the "narcotics," according to Russian News Agency TASS.
US WNBA basketball superstar Brittney Griner (C) arrives to a hearing at the Khimki Court, outside Moscow on July 1, 2022. - Griner, a two-time Olympic gold medallist and WNBA champion, was detained at Moscow airport in February on charges of carrying in her luggage vape cartridges with cannabis oil, which could carry a 10-year sentence. (KIRILL KUDRYAVTSEV/AFP via Getty Images)
"Being quite aware that it is banned to carry narcotic substances in the Eurasian Economic Union, she bought two cartridges holding 0.252 and 0.45 grams of cannabis oil, or 0.702 grams in total, for personal consumption from an unidentified person in an unidentified location and under unidentified circumstances but not later than February 17, 2022," the prosecutor claimed.
Griner, who could face up to 10 years in prison if convicted, was escorted into court wearing a Jimi Hendrix T-shirt. She told a Reuters reporter present in the courtroom that she is struggling with her detention because of the language barrier.
She did not enter a plea during Friday’s hearing and a judge ordered the trial be adjourned until July 7.
Elizabeth Rood, U.S. charge d’affaires in Moscow, was in court and said she spoke with Griner, who "is doing as well as can be expected in these difficult circumstances."
"The Russian Federation has wrongfully detained Brittney Griner," Rood said. "The practice of wrongful detention is unacceptable wherever it occurs and is a threat to the safety of everyone traveling, working, and living abroad."
On Friday, a Kremlin official denied U.S. reports that Griner’s arrest was "politically motivated."
"Facts are that a famous athlete was apprehended with forbidden compounds that contained narcotic substances. Russian legislation indeed has provisions that stipulate punishment for such crimes," the official said, via TASS.
FILE - Phoenix Mercury center Brittney Griner (42) looks to pass as Chicago Sky center Candace Parker defends during the first half of game 1 of the WNBA basketball Finals , Sunday, Oct. 10, 2021, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Ralph Freso, File)
Russian news media have repeatedly raised speculation that Griner could be swapped for Russian arms trader Viktor Bout, nicknamed "the Merchant of Death," who is serving a 25-year sentence on conviction of conspiracy to kill U.S. citizens and providing aid to a terrorist organization.
Griner’s arrest came a week before Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine, but news of her detention did not spread until March. She is facing a court system where the acquittal rate is less than 1%.