By Dublin Hunter | July 13, 2022
CNN reported that the trial of Women's National Basketball Association (WNBA) player Brittney Griner commenced last Friday, July 1, 2022, in a court near Moscow, where she faces allegations of drug smuggling. Griner, 31, a Phoenix Mercury star playing in the WNBA, is accused of bringing cannabis vape cartridges into Russia.
Many believe Griner is being used as a political pawn by Russian leaders during the country's invasion of Ukraine. U.S. officials deem she "wrongfully detained" and faces up to 10 years in jail if convicted.
Griner was arrested in March and has had her incarceration extended three times while awaiting trial. No result is expected on the opening day of the trial, which might run up to two weeks, according to some sources.
According to Reuters, acquittals are uncommon in Russia, with less than 1% of trials resulting in a not guilty conviction. The Russian judicial system grants state prosecutors discretionary powers, and defense counsel assigned to clients frequently fails to represent their interests.
Former U.S. resident legal adviser Tom Firestone According to ESPN, a Russian trial "is not a trial in the U.S. sense." There are no opening remarks or jury selection, and the majority of the trial is the judge reading the prosecutor's case file into the record; the judge also frequently leads the questioning.
While Russian media will almost certainly cover some of the proceedings, Western media will be denied access to the courtroom.
In May, Russian news outlet TASS claimed that Russia would be prepared to swap Griner for Viktor Bout, a Russian detained in the United States following an arms-dealing conviction. Bout was sentenced to 25 years. He is also the primary inspiration for the 2005 film "Lord of War."
On the other hand, the Russian court condemned American instructor and former U.S. ambassador Marc Fogel to 14 years in jail last month for "large-scale" cannabis smuggling. In August 2021, Fogel was detained when customs officers discovered cannabis – estimated to be 17 grams – in his suitcase.