3 things you should know about the Brittney Griner case, an American basketball player arrested in Russia for drug trafficking

Brittney Griner arrives at the court in Khimki, near Moscow (Russia, July 7, 2022). Kirill KUDRYAVTSEV / AFP

This Thursday, July 7, the NBWA player pleaded guilty to drug trafficking at the second hearing of her trial, and faces up to ten years in prison in Russia.

“My wife is an American hero.” These words are those of Cherelle, wife of Brittney Griner, star of the basketball American detained in Russia since February 17. This double Olympic gold medalist was arrested on the tarmac at Moscow-Sheremetyevo airport, in possession of liquid cannabis oil, and has been detained in Russia ever since. Far from his country and from his relatives, he does not know, for the moment, the destiny that is reserved for him. This Thursday, July 7, the second day of her trial, the basketball player thus pleaded guilty to drug trafficking (on the advice of her lawyers) before the Khimki court, on the outskirts of Moscow. She faces up to ten years in prison.

The conditions of your arrest.

American basketball star, referee for the Phoenix Mercury team of the Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA), Brittney Griner landed in Russia in February to play a European league game. On this occasion, she joined the Russian team UMMC Yekaterinburg, with which she won the Women’s Euroleague four times, according to reports. Release . After the confrontation, when the basketball player was about to take a plane from New York to the Moscow airport, customs discovered a vaporizer in her bag that contained “a liquid with a particular smell”: cannabis. From the height of 2 meters from her 06 from her, Brittney Griner is handcuffed and arrested on the spot. Russia has not directly and publicly admitted to the arrest of Brittney Griner. Prior to March 6, the Russian Federal Customs Service had only explained that it was detaining “a member of the American National Basketball Association and a two-time Olympic basketball champion with the American team.”

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Her name made public, Lindsay Kagawa Colas, her agent, had then stated on the American channel ESPN, her agent that Brittney Griner was “in close contact” with her family, her teams, the WNBA and the NBA. “As this is an ongoing legal case, we cannot comment further on the details of her case, but we can confirm that as we work to bring her home, her mental and physical health remains our primary concern.” she. .

After four months in detention, Brittney Griner’s trial finally opened on Friday, July 1, in Russia. The opportunity for many personalities from the sports world to show her support for her partner. “If you compare his situation to the noise and awareness that someone else’s situation would have created… I don’t like playing this game, but right now it’s just a matter of taking it home,” the 2022 NBA champion said. Stephen Curry. At the same time, a petition for his release was opened online, signed by nearly 319,737 people.

His letter to Joe Biden

At the same time, Brittney Griner is also fighting on her own to get out of the situation. The one who won the basketball world cup with the United States in 2014 and 2018, wrote a letter to the president of the United States, Joe Biden, beginning of July. “I’m terrified I’ll be here forever,” she wrote. I realize you’re dealing with a lot, but please don’t forget about me and the other inmates. Please do what you can to bring us home.”

In her letter, the basketball player even confesses that she has only voted once in her life: in 2020, for the current US president. “I believe in you,” she added then her. I still have a lot to do with my freedom that you can help restore. I miss my wife. My family misses me. I miss my teammates,” the 31-year-old American continued. As indicated in The cut , the arrest of Brittney Griner in Russia is also concerning “given her status as an athlete and her identity as a black LGBTQ+ woman.” Vladimir Putin has always opposed homosexuality and declared in 2020 that he would never legalize marriage for everyone.

The letter has not been revealed in its entirety so as not to give more details about the high-level athlete’s detention conditions and the harsh treatment she would receive. However, according to her lawyers, she is authorized to send and receive messages from the United States, although they are under the control of the Russian authorities.

A trading currency for Russia

In the American continent, now everyone is working for his release. “We are going to do everything in our power to bring Brittney Griner back safe and sound,” White House spokeswoman Karine Jean-Pierre said. But how ? Arrested in Russia just days before the February 24 invasion of Ukraine by Russian troops, Brittney Griner could well become the instrument of diplomatic and political conflict.

In this sense, several scenarios are possible: it could serve as a bargaining chip for the Kremlin, and become a hostage of the Putin regime, despite the fact that the latter has been trapped between the United States and NATO since its invasion. “The arrest of a high-profile American could be a way for Russia to gain leverage in the political and economic standoff with Washington over the invasion of Ukraine,” the two journalists said in unison. New York Times. As for the rumors about a possible prisoner swap, there is already talk of the release of Viktor Bout, a Russian arms dealer, sentenced in 2012 to 25 years in prison in the United States.

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