WNBA star Brittney Griner testifies at a drug trial in Russia that the interpreter provided an incomplete translation during her interrogation
American basketball star Brittney Griner testified at her drug trial in Russia on Wednesday that she “takes responsibility” for accidentally bringing cannabis-infused vape cartridges into Russia, but that she had no intention of breaking the law. Griner also testified that a language interpreter provided during her questioning translated only a fraction of what was said, and that officials ordered her to sign documents without explanation.
The substance “entered my pockets by accident … and I accept responsibility, but I had no intention of smuggling or planning to smuggle.” [banned substances] to Russia,” said Griner, who was arrested at a Moscow airport in February, during cross-examination.
During her testimony, the Phoenix Mercury personality described how she took a grueling 13-hour flight from Arizona to Moscow while recovering from COVID-19. Griner said she still remembers how the cannabis oil, which she had a doctor’s recommendation for, ended up in her bag, but explained she packed in a hurry under great stress.
She recalled how, upon arrival in Moscow on February 17, her luggage was checked and pulled aside after inspectors found the cartridges.
Along with the interpreter, who allegedly provided an incomplete translation, Griner said she was not offered an explanation of her rights, access to lawyers, and was ordered to sign documents without being given an explanation of what they contained.
“No, my rights were not explained to me. Nobody explained anything to me,” Griner said. “There was a woman who said she was a translator, but she only translated words like ‘name, signature’.”
After hours of procedures she didn’t understand, she was allowed to hand over her personal belongings to a lawyer before being taken away in handcuffs, Griner said. She said she received only a cursory translation of the allegations against her during a Feb. 19 hearing where a court approved her arrest.
If convicted of drug trafficking, Griner faces up to 10 years in prison. Her trial began on July 1 and the five court hearings so far have been brief, some lasting as little as an hour.
The next hearing in Griner’s trial is expected on August 2nd. It’s unclear how long the trial will last, but a court has authorized Griner’s detention until December 20. She went to Russia to play for a Russian team in the off-season of the WNBA.
During Tuesday’s roughly 90-minute court session, a Russian neuropsychologist testified about the global use of medicinal cannabis, which remains illegal in Russia. Griner’s defense team has produced a letter from a US doctor recommending the basketball player use medicinal cannabis to treat pain.
Griner testified Wednesday that she was in pain from injuries sustained during her basketball career. She emphasized that cannabis oil is widely used in the United States for medicinal purposes and has fewer negative effects than some other pain relievers.
A spokesman for Russia’s foreign ministry said last week that the legalization of cannabis for medicinal and recreational use in parts of the US has no bearing on what is happening in Russia.
The slow-moving process and Griner’s five-month incarceration have drawn criticism from teammates and supporters across the United States, which has formally happened declared her “unlawfully detained” a designation sharply opposed by Russian officials.
in one handwritten letter von Griner, delivered to the White House earlier this month, the WNBA player wrote about how scared she is that she could be locked up in Russia “forever.”
Griner’s wife Cherelle to CBS Mornings that as she read the letter, she could sense the fear that Griner felt.
“She’s probably the strongest person I know, so she doesn’t say words like that lightly. That means she’s really scared of never seeing us again. You know, I share the same sentiments,” Cherelle said.
Griner was arrested in February amid high tensions between the US and Moscow, before Russia sent troops to Ukraine later in the month. Some supporters claim she is being held as collateral in Russia, possibly for a prisoner exchange. American soccer star Megan Rapinoe said last week: “She is obviously being held as a political prisoner.”
Russian media have speculated that Griner could be swapped for prominent Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout, who is jailed in the United States, and that Paul Whelan, an American jailed in Russia for espionage, could also be involved in an exchange.
US officials have not commented on the prospects for such a trade. Russian officials said no exchange could be discussed until the court case against Griner was completed.