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Brittney Griner testified during her Russian trial on Wednesday, with the WNBA star offering a much clearer picture of how scary those first hours of detainment were.
The WNBA champion has been wrongfully detained in Russia since Feb. 17. She was stopped at a Moscow airport after police say they found vape cartridges containing hash oil in her luggage.
According to ESPN, the Phoenix Mercury center testified that when she was initially detained, “she was offered neither an explanation of her rights nor access to lawyers and was instructed to sign documents without receiving an explanation of what they implied.”
At first she used Google Translate on her phone to try and understand the documents, but once her phone was taken away she wasn’t told what they were.
Despite recovering from COVID-19, the two-time Olympic gold medalist was traveling to Russia to play with her team, UMMC Ekaterinburg. Griner stated she had no idea how the cannabis oil got in her luggage, but said she “packed in haste while under great stress.”
The eight-time all-star went on to say that “after hours of proceedings she did not understand, she was allowed to hand over her personal belongings to a lawyer before being led away in handcuffs.”
During a Feb. 19 hearing to sanction her arrest, Griner testified that “she received only a cursory translation of the allegations.”
The Houston native’s defense team previously presented evidence that the Baylor standout uses medical marijuana to treat pain from injuries suffered during her playing career. Something she reiterated, saying, “cannabis oil is widely used in the United States for medicinal purposes and has less negative effects than some other painkillers.”
Griner pleaded guilty to attempted drug smuggling charges on the second day of her trial. ESPN reports her decision was based on Russia’s 99-percent conviction rate and the possibility of a prisoner exchange. Any deal for Brittney’s release would have to include a guilty plea.
The Biden administration has repeatedly said it’s doing all it can to bring Brittney home, and that may be true, but it’s clear the basketball champion is a political pawn in bigger issues that she has no control over. As a high-profile queer woman of color it is vital that we never lose sight of how dangerous this situation truly is and do not let Brittney Griner’s name leave the newscycle.