Brittney Griner Makes First Court Appearance Since Washington’s Official Acknowledgement Of Prisoner Swap Offer

The trial of WNBA star Brittney Griner resumed in a Moscow-area court on Tuesday with the American basketball player in attendance, as Moscow warned against “megaphone diplomacy” after Secretary of State Anthony Blinken publicly acknowledged Washington’s prisoner swap offer to Moscow in efforts to secure Griner’s release.

WNBA star and two-time Olympic gold medalist Brittney Griner is escorted in a court room prior to a … [+] hearing, in Khimki just outside Moscow, Russia.

Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

Key Facts

According to the Washington Post, Griner arrived in court on Tuesday escorted by a team of SWAT police officers.

Griner’s defense attorney’s produced multiple expert witnesses in front of the court including one who reportedly testified that the cannabis tests carried out on Griner’s vape cartridges by state officials failed to meet legal requirements, the report added.

Griner stands accused of carrying vape cartridges containing cannabis oil in her luggage at a Moscow airport—a jailable offense in Russia.

After the testimonies, the hearing was adjourned till Thursday, the Post’s report added.

News Peg
Griner, who has pleaded guilty to the charges against her, testified before the court for the first time last week. The basketball player said she was not read her rights after being detained at the airport in February. She also said she was not offered an attorney and was forced to sign papers without being told what they said. The testimony added credence to allegations by U.S. officials that Griner was targeted by Russian authorities for being American as geopolitical tensions rose between Moscow and Washington ahead of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Key Background
In a press briefing on Thursday Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov expressed surprise that backchannel prisoner swap talks between Washington and Moscow had been made public. Peskov said no deals have been finalized as of yet any such negotiations between the countries should remain private. A day later, Blinken said he had spoken with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and urged Moscow to accept the “substantial” deal. As part of the deal, U.S. officials have offered to exchange notorious Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout—who is serving a 25-year jail sentence in the U.S.—for the release of Griner and former marine Paul Whelan—who has been jailed by Russia on spying accusations. The 55-year-old Bout gained notoriety in the 1990s and early 2000s for supplying millions of Soviet-era weapons and ammunition to militias and terror groups across the world, earning the moniker “The Merchant of Death.”

Crucial Quote
On Tuesday, Peskov once reiterated the need for discretion in any prisoner swap talks between the U.S. and Russia saying “megaphone diplomacy” would not help resolve the issue, Reuters reported.

Further Reading
Brittney Griner back in Russian court amid hopes of a prisoner swap (Washington Post)

Blinken Urges Russia To Accept ‘Substantial’ Griner And Whelan Offer (Forbes)

Russia: Prisoner Swap For Griner, Whelan Still Under Discussion (Forbes)

Read More

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