Griner supporters and US officials say she is being wrongfully detained and have called for her release amid growing fears she will be used as a political pawn amid growing tensions between Russia and the US.
At trial, Griner was accused by a prosecutor of smuggling less than one gram of cannabis oil in her luggage.
“Be sufficiently aware that the movement of narcotics is not permitted…no later than February 17, 2022 to an unspecified location under unspecified circumstances of an unidentified person [Griner] purchased two cartridges for personal use, which contained 0.252 grams and 0.45 grams of hash oil, totaling 0.702 grams,” the prosecutor said, according to a TASS reporter in the hall of the Khimki city court.
The prosecution argues that Griner intended to import the drugs into Russian territory and put the banned substances in a backpack and suitcase, according to TASS. Cannabis oil is subject to control in Russia and is classified as a narcotic.
The second trial hearing will take place on July 7.
Some have speculated that Griner could be freed in a prisoner exchange, but over the weekend US Secretary of State Antony Blinken declined to comment on the matter.
Griner’s attorneys, Alexander Boykov and Maria Blagovolina, said Friday they were unaware of any plans to exchange Griner for a Russian prisoner held in the United States.
“We don’t have any information on that, unfortunately,” the lawyers said at an impromptu press conference.
At the hearing, an employee of the Sheremetyevo airport customs service was one of the two witnesses, the lawyers said. He was questioned about the circumstances of Griner’s detention and personal search, the attorneys said, adding that they could not release any of the information he revealed during testimony.
When asked why Griner refused to speak about the charges in court, the attorneys replied, “She has the right to do that later.
U.S. Embassy Chargé d’Affaires Elizabeth Rood, who attended Friday’s hearing, reiterated that Griner had been “wrongfully detained,” adding that “the practice of wrongful detention is unacceptable. wherever it occurs and poses a threat to the safety of all who travel, work, and live abroad.”
She spoke to Griner in the courtroom. “She is doing as well as can be expected in these difficult circumstances and she asked me to let her know that she is in good spirits and keeping the faith,” Rood said.
“The U.S. government, at the highest level, is working hard to bring Brittney and all U.S. nationals wrongfully detained back home,” she added.
Griner’s detention, which has been repeatedly extended, has sparked an outpouring of support among dozens of organizations across the United States who have joined Griner’s wife, Cherelle, in urging President Joe Biden to conclude a swap deal with the Russian authorities to free Griner and bring her home. safely as soon as possible.
“It’s really, really difficult. It’s not a situation where the rhetoric matches the action,” she said. “I unfortunately have to push people to make sure the things they say to me also align with their actions and so that’s been the hardest thing to balance because I can’t let go. It’s been over 130 days and BG is still not back.”
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the case was not politically motivated during a conference call with reporters on Friday.
Although the Kremlin could not comment on the course of the trial, Peskov said, it pointed out that Griner was arrested after transporting “illegal drugs containing narcotic substances”, which is punishable under Russian law.
“Based on what I said, his arrest cannot be politically motivated,” Peskov added.
Griner was named an honorary WNBA All-Star Game starter last week, with the All-Star Game set to take place July 10 in Chicago. His detention is still “tough on our team,” Phoenix Mercury head coach Vanessa Nygaard told reporters ahead of the team’s game Monday against Indiana Fever.
She expressed hope that Griner will return home soon and that President Biden will “take the necessary steps to make sure she comes home.”
CNN’s Kylie Atwood contributed to this report.