American basketball player Brittney Griner has pleaded guilty in a Russian court to a drug charge, but denies that she intentionally broke the law.
Most important points:
- Brittney Griner pleaded guilty to drug possession on Thursday, speaking in English, which was then translated into Russian in court
- Griner’s lawyer Alexander Boykov told reporters they hoped for the mildest possible sentencing
- Russia’s foreign ministry says Griner can appeal her sentence or request a pardon once a verdict is handed down
Griner was at the second hearing of her narcotics charges trial, which could face up to 10 years in prison, days after she urged US President Joe Biden to secure her release.
“I’d like to plead guilty, Your Honor,” Griner said.
“I would like to give my testimony later. I need time to prepare,” she added.
The next court hearing was scheduled for July 14.
Griner’s lawyer, Alexander Boykov, told reporters they hoped for the most lenient sentence possible.
The two-time Olympic gold medalist was detained at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport in February with vape cartridges containing hash oil, a substance illegal in Russia, and has been held in custody ever since.
US working to release Griner ‘as soon as possible’
In a handwritten note earlier this week, Griner directly appealed to Mr. Biden to step up US efforts to bring her home.
“Please do everything you can to take us home.”
Mr Biden spoke to Griner’s wife on Wednesday and told her he was working to get her released “as soon as possible,” the White House said.
US officials and many athletes have called for the release of Griner – or “BG” as she is known to basketball fans – who they believe has been wrongly detained.
Griner’s detention has also raised concerns that Moscow could use the two-time Olympic gold medalist to negotiate the release of a high-profile Russian citizen in US custody.
Russian authorities say there is no reason to consider Griner’s detention illegal and that the case against her is not political, despite Moscow’s strained relations with the United States over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Moscow’s deputy foreign minister Sergei Ryabkov said Thursday that it is difficult to exchange prisoners with the United States and suggested that Washington stop talking about Griner’s fate.
Griner, a center for the Phoenix Mercury in the Women’s National Basketball Association, had played for UMMC Ekaterinburg in the Russian Women’s Basketball Premier League to increase her WNBA offseason income, as did several other US players. players.
Russia’s foreign ministry has said Griner can appeal her sentence or request a pardon once a verdict is handed down.