WNBA’s Griner gets support at trial from character witnesses | Govt-and-politics

KHIMKI, Russia (AP) — Brittney Griner’s drug possession demo resumed Thursday with the head of the Russian club she plays for in the offseason and a teammate from that squad testifying in help of her character and what the WNBA star has meant for women’s basketball in the nation.

Griner, who pleaded responsible past 7 days, did not testify as anticipated at the 3rd day of the trial. She has been detained in Russia because February, and the U.S. governing administration is underneath stress at house to do far more to protected her liberty. Her responsible plea could be an exertion to expedite the court proceedings so any negotiations about a prisoner trade could move ahead.

Griner was arrested at the Russian capital’s Sheremetyevo Airport when customs officials stated they observed vape canisters with cannabis oil in her baggage. She acknowledged in court that she possessed the canisters, but mentioned she experienced no legal intent and stated their existence in her baggage was thanks to hasty packing. She is dealing with up to 10 many years in jail.

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Most journalists have been denied access to Thursday’s session, but the director of UMMC Ekaterinburg, for which she plays all through the WNBA offseason, instructed reporters afterward that he testified as a character witness.

“Our activity right now was to notify the court docket about her characteristics as an athlete, as a man or woman — tell about how she performed a huge position in the success of the Ektaerinburg club and Russian women’s basketball as a entire,” club director Maxim Rybakov.

“Today is the 1st day when we have found our basketball player since February. Thank God, she feels very well, appears to be like very good,” Rybakov mentioned outdoors the courthouse in the Moscow suburb of Khimki, in which the airport is positioned.

Player Evgenia Belyakova stated she testified that “Brittney has usually been a quite superior teammate, so my position listed here is just to be with her, to assist her.”

“We miss out on her very considerably, we overlook her strength,” Belyakova added. “I was extremely joyful to see her, and I hope this trial will be in excess of quickly and with a good consequence.”

Also in courtroom were being Elizabeth Rood, cost d’affaires of the U.S. Embassy in Moscow, and other consular officials, and they were in a position to communicate to Griner, who explained to them she appreciated their existence, the U.S. Point out Section claimed.

The trial’s next session is established for Friday.

Griner is a single of the most distinguished feminine athletes in the U.S., a standout for the Phoenix Mercury and a two-time Olympic gold medalist.

U.S. President Joe Biden and Secretary of Condition Antony Blinken have said they were being doing all they could to acquire her launch, as very well as that of other Us citizens the U.S. considers “wrongly detained” by Russia, which includes former Maritime Paul Whelan.

Washington might have minimal leverage with Moscow, however, mainly because of sturdy animosity above its military procedure in Ukraine.

Russian media have speculated that Griner could be swapped for Russian arms trader Viktor Bout, nicknamed “the Merchant of Demise,” who is serving a 25-calendar year sentence in the U.S. soon after staying convicted of conspiracy to kill U.S. citizens and supplying aid to a terrorist group.

Russia has agitated for Bout’s launch for decades. But the broad discrepancy in the seriousness of their instances could make this sort of a trade unpalatable to Washington. Many others have instructed that Griner could be traded along with Whelan, who is serving 16 many years in Russia on an espionage conviction that the U.S. has described as a setup.

The Condition Department’s designation of Griner as wrongfully detained moves her circumstance under the supervision of its unique presidential envoy for hostage affairs, successfully the government’s main hostage negotiator. The classification has irritated Russia.

Requested about the chance of Griner being swapped for a Russian jailed in the U.S., Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov, the senior Russian diplomat, has noted that until finally her trial is about “there are no formal or procedural reasons to chat about any further more steps.”

Ryabkov warned that U.S. criticism, which includes the description of Griner as wrongfully detained and dismissive comments about the Russian judicial method, “makes it hard to engage in thorough discussion of any attainable exchanges.”

Griner’s detention has been approved by way of Dec. 20, suggesting the demo could last months. Griner’s attorneys, having said that, stated they hope it to conclude all-around the commencing of August.

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