Brittney Griner’s Russian Trial Begins with Prosecution Releasing Details of Arrest

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Brittney Griner arrives to a hearing at the Khimki Court, outside Moscow on July 1, 2022. - (Photo by Kirill KUDRYAVTSEV / AFP) (Photo by KIRILL KUDRYAVTSEV/AFP via Getty Images)
Brittney Griner arrives to a hearing at the Khimki Court, outside Moscow on July 1, 2022. - (Photo by Kirill KUDRYAVTSEV / AFP) (Photo by KIRILL KUDRYAVTSEV/AFP via Getty Images)

Brittney Griner has been wrongfully detained in Russia for 135 days and now the WNBA star is finally having her day in court. On Friday, Griner arrived at Khimki City Court outside Moscow, handcuffed and wearing a Jimi Hendrix t-shirt.

According to NPR, Russian state news agency TASS is reporting that the prosecution alleges the two-time Olympic gold medalist “bought two cartridges for personal use, which contained 0.252 grams and 0.45 grams of hash oil.” A security inspection of Griner’s luggage allegedly revealed the cartridges as she arrived at Sheremetyevo International Airport on Feb. 17. Two customs agents who were working during the search testified for the prosecution.

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Griner’s lawyer Alexander Boikov told NPR Brittney is “a bit worried” about the trial, but added that “she’s a tough lady and I think she will manage.”

Unlike American trials, the Phoenix Mercury center was not asked for a plea, which happens later in the Russian legal process. Griner’s detention has been extended through the length of the trial and her next hearing is July 7.

The seven-time WNBA all-star’s case has sparked outrage, as supporters feel the U.S. government isn’t treating it with the urgency it deserves. U.S. Deputy Chief of Mission Elizabeth Rood was in the courtroom and spoke with Griner.

“The U.S. embassy and the American government cares very deeply about this case and about Ms. Griner’s welfare, as do millions of Americans,” Rood said in a press conference outside the courthouse. “She asked me to convey that she is in good spirits and is keeping up the faith.”

Brittney’s appearance at a hearing on Monday, led some to comment on how alone she was in her situation. Musician/filmmaker Questlove took to Instagram to plead for compassion for the WNBA champion.

“Can my media people take compassion to bring attention to this situation? THIS IS WHAT TRAUMA LOOKS LIKE. The lack of urgency and care for Black women personified in Britteny Griner. This must be treated like the international crisis it is! #BrittenyGriner #FreeHerNOW”

Questlove is not wrong. While the strained relationship between the U.S. and Russia makes things extremely difficult, the seemingly cavalier way this situation is being treated is disappointing and unfortunately unsurprising.

If Griner is found guilty of drug smuggling, something that’s almost a certainty since a very small percentage of Russian defendants are acquitted, she faces up to 10 years in prison. That’s 10 years in a Russian prison as a high-profile queer woman of color.

The United States of America cannot spend the weekend celebrating its greatness with fireworks and parades, while also leaving a decorated Olympian who has represented the U.S. around the world wrongfully detained and on her own in such a dangerous country.