American basketball star Brittney Griner could face up to a decade behind bars after pleading guilty to drug possession in a Russian court.

Griner was detained Fly since February, after police said they found vaporizer containers containing cannabis oil in her luggage.

Now the US government is under increasing pressure to do more to secure his freedom later was “unfairly detained”.

Who is Brittney Griner?

Two-time Olympic gold winner Griner is one of the highest-paid players in the Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) and has been acclaimed for her ability to dunk.

The 31-year-old, who measures 6 feet 9 feet tall, plays for Phoenix Mercury, a team based in Phoenix, Arizona.

The Texas-born athlete is married to Cherelle, whom she met in college and whom she describes as her “best friend” and “the love of her life”.

Griner was hailed as an “American hero” by fellow WNBA star Nneka Ogwumike in the wake of the allegations against her.

What is she accused of?

Griner was arrested at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport in February this year as he returned to play basketball in Russia.

She was later accused of intentionally importing narcotics into the country and found guilty of drug possession and smuggling on July 7, the second day of his trial.

But the athlete said he had no intention of committing a crime and acted “unwittingly” after packing his bags for his trip to Moscow in a hurry.

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Griner during a WNBA basketball playoff in Las Vegas last October Pic: AP

He told the court last week, “I’d like to plead guilty, Your Honor. But there was no intention. I didn’t want to break the law.”

Now the lawyers are hoping that the sportswoman will receive the most lenient sentence possible.

Why is it blocked in Russia?

Griner’s detention was cleared until December 20, raising concerns that the trial could last for months.

A senior Russian diplomat said no action could be taken until the trial was over.

It has been dubbed a “political pawn” amid Russian media speculation that it could be traded with the Russian arms dealer, Viktor Bout, nicknamed The Death Merchant.

The Kremlin has long demanded the release of Bout, who is serving a 25-year sentence in the United States for conspiring to kill American citizens and providing aid to a terrorist organization.

It has also been suggested that Griner could be swapped with other US citizens believed to be “wrongly detained” by Moscow, including former Marine Paul Whelan.

Whelan was jailed for 16 years on charges of spying slammed as a “set-up” by Washington.

Britney Griner
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Brittney Griner could face 10 years behind bars

What is the White House doing to help?

Deputy Head of Mission of the US Embassy in Moscow, Elizabeth Rood, said she spoke with Griner that “he eats well, he can read books” and under the circumstances “he is fine”.

President Joe Biden he called Griner’s wife Wednesday to reassure her that she is doing everything she can to press for her release.

The phone call came after Mr. Biden received a letter from the basketball pro expressing fears that she would never go home.

Cherelle Griner spouse of Brittney Griner during a press conference on the detention of Brittney Griner
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Griner’s wife, Cherelle

She wrote: “… As I sit here in a Russian prison, alone with my thoughts and without the protection of my wife, family, friends, Olympic jersey or any achievement, I am terrified that I can be here forever.

“On July 4th, our family normally honors the service of those who fought for our freedom, including my father who is a Vietnam War veteran.

“It hurts to think about how I usually celebrate this day because freedom means something completely different to me this year.”

Ms. Rood told reporters, “I would like to emphasize once again the commitment of the US government at the highest level to safely bring Ms. Griner and all unjustly detained US citizens home, as well as the commitment of the Embassy. of the United States in Moscow to care for and protect the interests of all US citizens detained or imprisoned in Russia. “

Brittney Griner was escorted to a courtroom for a hearing in Khimki, just outside Moscow.  Image: AP
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Griner, pictured during an audition in Khimki, outside Moscow. Image: AP

What does Russia say?

The Russian Deputy Foreign Minister, Sergei Ryabkov, previously warned the White House that “attempts by the US to make noise in public … do not help the practical solution of the issues”.

Criticism from the United States, including Griner’s description of being “unjustly detained,” makes it “difficult to engage in detailed discussion of any possible trade,” he said.

Asked about whether Griner would be exchanged for a Russian prisoner in the United States, Ryabkov said, “There are no formal or procedural reasons to talk about further steps” until the trial is over.

The case comes amid ongoing tensions between Moscow and Washington Vladimir Putinthe invasion of Ukraine.

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