Four months after being detained and held in Russia, Brittney Griner, the WNBA star and middle for the Phoenix Mercury, will begin court docket proceedings on Friday, in accordance to The Associated Press. She will stay in custody during her prison trial.
Griner has remained in Russian custody since February after she was arrested at a Moscow airport and suspected of hashish possession. Experts say she is probably going to be convicted.
Nearly two months after Griner’s arrest, the U.S. State Department reclassified her case as wrongful detention.
Calls for her launch from Russian custody have been made by many well-known names within the basketball neighborhood, together with LeBron James, Monty Williams and Diana Taurasi, together with the remainder of the Phoenix Mercury franchise.
Here’s what you want to know as her trial begins:
Who is Brittney Griner?
At 31, Brittney Griner is likely one of the most achieved basketball gamers. She has received the WNBA’s All-Star award seven occasions, received the Olympic gold medal twice for Team USA and achieved plenty of other accolades on the court.
Besides enjoying for the Mercury, the 6-foot-9-inch star has performed for the Russian workforce UMMC Ekaterinburg through the WNBA’s offseason since 2015.
Off the court docket, Griner is simply as celebrated by her supporters being the primary overtly homosexual athlete who signed an endorsement with Nike. Griner has additionally been concerned within the Phoenix neighborhood by varied philanthropic endeavors.
AboutBrittney Griner: Mercury star’s life as sophisticated as Russian detainment suggests
Most just lately in the summertime of 2020, she partnered up with Deandre Ayton of the Phoenix Suns to assist elevate money for COVID-19 aid and for the Black Lives Matter motion.
What was Brittney Griner doing in Russia?
Like different WNBA gamers, Griner was in Russia to play within the Russian Women’s Basketball Premier League, enjoying on the Russian UMMC Ekaterinburg workforce for the previous seven years.
Overseas play: Phoenix Mercury middle Brittney Griner amongst a number of WNBA gamers competing in Russia
This is in fact a manner for U.S. athletes to play the game and make supplemental revenue. For comparability, in Russia, she made as a lot as $1.5 million in a single year. Her base wage on the Phoenix Mercury final season was solely $215,000.
After the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Americans who had been gamers in Russia sought to depart the nation. Canceled flights and deteriorating diplomatic relations between Russia and the U.S. made this increasingly more tough.
Why was Brittney Griner detained?
Griner was detained on Feb. 17, when authorities reportedly discovered hashish vape cartridges in her carry-on baggage whereas she was going by an airport outdoors of Moscow.
Cannabis is thought-about a Schedule I substance, in accordance to U.S. federal legislation. This signifies that no matter whether or not your state legislature has legalized the substance, transporting it throughout state strains isn’t advisable.
Can I fly with weed vape? What to know after Brittney Griner’s arrest in Russia
When the Russian Federal Customs Service introduced the arrest, it talked about that these costs might doubtlessly lead to a maximum of a 10-year prison sentence.
In an interview with The Arizona Republic, William Butler, a professor of legislation at Penn State Dickinson, described the Russian legislation on narcotics as a “zero tolerance policy.”
How long could Brittney Griner’s trial last?
In June, a Russian court extended Griner’s pretrial detention for the second time since she was detained in February. She was told that she would have to wait as late as July 2 for her case to be heard.
Her first court appearance is scheduled for Friday.
A spokesman for the State Department said that these extensions are part of the reason why the U.S. government has classified her arrest as wrongful.
“This case is problematic from top to bottom,” he mentioned. “It is precisely why we have characterized Brittney Griner as an unlawful detainee. It’s precisely why we are doing everything we can to seek and to affect her prompt release from Russian detention.”
Republic reporter Lane Sainty spoke with William Pomeranz, the acting director of the Kennan Institute. Pomeranz, who has practiced law in the Russian judicial system, said he fears for Griner as her trial is set to unfold.
“I assume she’ll have a trial,” he said. “I assume she’ll be convicted. There is a 99% conviction rate within the Russian Federation.”
According to The Associated Press, fewer than 1% of defendants in Russian criminal cases are acquitted, and acquittals can be overturned.
Has Griner been able to communicate with loved ones in the U.S.?
A phone call was scheduled between Brittney Griner and her wife, Cherelle Griner, in an attempt for them to connect on the couple’s anniversary on June 18.
According to Biden administration officials, due to an “unlucky mistake,” the call could not be completed and had to be rescheduled. According to The Associated Press, the phone line meant to connect the two was not staffed at the U.S. Embassy in Moscow that day.
‘Unacceptable’: WNBA star Brittney Griner’s wife upset that scheduled anniversary call never went through
That would have been the first time the two had spoken to one another since Brittney Griner’s arrest.
Despite that, according to The Associated Press, Griner has been able to receive emails and letters from WNBA players during her detainment. Hundreds of emails have been sent by players to an account Griner’s agent set up to allow them to communicate with her.
What is the U.S. government doing about Brittney Griner’s case?
The State Department has said it would take a more aggressive approach to have Griner released from Russian detention.
On June 24, the House of Representatives passed a resolution that called on the Russian government to release Griner. This was introduced by Rep. Greg Stanton of Arizona along with Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee and Rep. Colin Allred of Texas.
Call to action: Stanton resolution pushing to free Brittney Griner passes House
In a written statement, Stanton said, “Not a day goes by that we aren’t thinking of Brittney and working to get her home. … We will continue to push for her release and make sure that she is not forgotten.”
Speculation has grown about whether or not Griner may very well be launched in a prisoner swap deal made by the U.S. and Russia. Earlier this year, an identical trade was made for Trevor Reed, who had been detained in Russia since 2019.