Brittney Griner listening to comes amid hope of Russia prisoner change

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RIGA, Latvia — WNBA star Brittney Griner appeared in a Moscow courtroom Tuesday for the primary time since information broke that the Biden administration is proposing a prisoner change to carry her and one other American prisoner, former Marine Paul Whelan, house.

The courtroom questioned skilled witnesses referred to as by Griner’s authorized group at Tuesday’s listening to.

The basketball participant was escorted right into a cramped courtroom on the outskirts of Moscow by a group of masked SWAT police, underscoring how severely Russian legislation enforcement views her case.

One of many specialists, Dmitry Gladyshev, testified that checks for hashish by a state skilled on vape cartridges in Griner’s baggage didn’t meet authorized necessities. The listening to adjourned till Thursday.

Final week, Secretary of State Antony Blinken stated Washington had made a “substantial proposal” to Moscow for a prisoner change involving Griner and Whelan, who’s serving a 16-year sentence after being convicted on spy prices. Whelan says he was framed.

Russian officers have stated that no deal had been reached. The International Ministry has accused the USA of making an attempt to make use of public strain to safe Griner’s launch, warning that it’ll not assist her trigger. Russian officers have hinted there could also be willingness to barter a prisoner change, however solely after her trial is full.

Proposal for Griner, Whelan follows historical past of U.S.-Russia prisoner swaps

Elizabeth Rood, deputy chief of mission at the USA Embassy in Moscow, current on the listening to, stated embassy workers would proceed to help Griner till she arrived safely again within the United State, in addition to different People jailed in Russia.

Griner earlier pleaded responsible to carrying two vape cartridges containing hashish oil into the nation in mid-February. She was arrested at a time when relations between Washington and Moscow have been strained, with President Vladimir Putin making ready to invade Ukraine.

Her attorneys made their case for leniency final week, arguing that she didn’t intend to interrupt Russian legislation. Griner testified that she had packed in a rush and didn’t know the way the vape cartridges ended up in her baggage. The basketball star stated she used hashish to alleviate persistent ache from accidents. She stated legislation enforcement officers didn’t learn her authorized rights to her earlier than the arrest.

President Biden and Putin opened a channel for negotiations on prisoner exchanges after they met final 12 months, in accordance with Russia’s International Ministry. Former Marine Trevor Reed, convicted of assaulting police, was exchanged in April for Russian pilot Konstantin Yaroshenko, who was serving a 20-year sentence in the USA for drug smuggling.

U.S. and Russian officers haven’t confirmed media experiences that Washington provided to change arms vendor Viktor Bout, 55, dubbed the “merchant of death,” for Griner and Whelan. Russia has sought Bout’s launch for years, calling his imprisonment “unlawful.” He’s serving a 25-year sentence in Illinois for conspiring to kill U.S. nationals and promoting weapons to the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC).

Russia needs Viktor Bout again, badly. The query is: Why?

One other American, schoolteacher Marc Fogel, 61, who like Griner was arrested on drug prices after bringing hashish into the nation for therapy of persistent ache, is serving a 14-year sentence in a Russian high-security jail.

Fogel has not been categorized by the U.S. State Division as wrongfully detained, which means he’s excluded from negotiations on any change. He introduced 17 grams of hashish into the nation, whereas Griner pleaded responsible to importing 0.702 grams. Like Griner, he pleaded responsible, hoping for leniency.

Each have been detained at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Worldwide Airport, and Fogel’s trial came about on the identical Khimki courtroom on the sting of Moscow, the place Griner’s trial reconvened Tuesday.

Fogel’s spouse, Jane Fogel, informed The Washington Submit final week that she hoped her husband might be included in any prisoner swap however fearful he can be forgotten.

“There’s a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach that Marc will be left behind,” Jane Fogel stated. One among his sisters, Anne Fogel, referred to as the 14-year jail time period an efficient demise sentence in feedback to CNN.

This American instructor additionally sits in a Russian jail, fearful no one cares

The State Division has not commented on Fogel’s case or why he isn’t categorized as wrongfully detained.

In 2019, Israeli American Naama Issachar was sentenced to seven years in jail after almost 10 grams of hashish was present in her backpack throughout a layover in Moscow as she flew from India to Israel. She was freed when she was Putin pardoned her, after he met her mom, Yaffa Issachar, throughout a January 2020 journey to Israel marking the seventy fifth anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz.

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