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Brittney Griner arrest: WNBA superstar heads to ‘sham trial’, Russian court system under the microscope


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Two-time Olympic gold medalist and Brittney Griner, WNBA star She will appear in court on Friday, more than four months after she was arrested in Russia for allegedly bringing vape cartridges containing cannabis-derived oils through a Moscow airport.

US officials fear the American basketball icon is the subject of a “sham trial”.

WNBA star and two-time Olympic gold medalist Brittney Griner leaves the courtroom after a hearing in Khimki, outside Moscow, Russia, Monday, June 27, 2022.
(AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko)

Griner appeared in court Monday for the second time since his detention began in February, and His trial date was announced. for later this week.

Rep. Colin Allred, a Democrat from Texas, issued a statement the next day condemning his “unfair” detention and accusing Russian officials of creating the image of a fair trial.

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“Brittney Griner has been wrongfully detained for four months, and Russia is now playing the theater by putting her through a sham trial in an effort to create a false pretense that she is not a political prisoner,” Allred said in a press release. .

Griner could face up to 10 years in prison if convicted.

According to a State Department report, “Russia Human Rights Report 2021,” judges may be subject to influence by the “executive branch, the military, and other security forces” in “high-profile or politically sensitive cases.” .

That same report also found that the results of some trials “seemed predetermined” and that, in 2020, only 0.34% of defendants were acquitted. Even if Griner is acquitted, the ruling could be overturned under Russian law.

Brittney Griner is escorted to a courtroom for a hearing in Khimki, outside Moscow, Russia, Monday, June 27, 2022.

Brittney Griner is escorted to a courtroom for a hearing in Khimki, outside Moscow, Russia, Monday, June 27, 2022.
(AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko)

Jury trials showed higher acquittal rates (23% in 2019). However, such cases are rare, and jury acquittals “were sometimes overturned by judges in appellate courts.” Under Russian law, narcotics smuggling cases were subject to trial by jury, although it was not immediately known if this would be the case for Griner.

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William Pomeranz, acting director of the Kennan Institute and an expert on Russian law, told The New York Times this week that the expectation going to trial is that the defendant will likely be found guilty.

“There’s a bias mainly because the Russian judicial system says they really shouldn’t go to trial unless the defendant is convicted,” Pomeranz explained. “There is no real idea or expectation that the defendant could be innocent. There is no presumption of innocence, really.”

Thomas Firestone, a former resident legal adviser at the US Embassy in Moscow, echoed that sentiment on the eve of Griner’s trial.

A close-up of Brittney Griner of the Phoenix Mercury at practice and media availability during the 2021 WNBA Finals on October 11, 2021 at the Footprint Center in Phoenix.

A close-up of Brittney Griner of the Phoenix Mercury at practice and media availability during the 2021 WNBA Finals on October 11, 2021 at the Footprint Center in Phoenix.
(Michael Gonzales/NBAE via Getty Images)

“Usually it’s not a question of what the verdict will be,” he told The Washington Post, “it’s more a question of what the sentence will be.”

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Griner was arrested at Sheremetyevo airport on February 17 after she was accused of bringing vape cartridges containing cannabis-derived oils For security. His arrest came a week before Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine, but news of his arrest did not spread until March.

Ryan Gaydos of Fox News contributed to this report.



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