American basketball star Brittney Griner testified at her drug trial in Russia on Wednesday that a language interpreter translated only a fraction of what was said during her interrogation and that officials ordered her to to sign documents without providing an explanation.
Griner was arrested at a Moscow airport in February. She admitted in court earlier this month that she had vaping cartridges containing cannabis oil in her luggage when she arrived in Russia, but claims she had no criminal intent and inadvertently packed the cartridges.
During her testimony, the Phoenix Mercury star described taking a grueling 13-hour flight to Moscow from Arizona while recovering from COVID-19. Griner said she still doesn’t know how the cannabis oil ended up in her bag, but explained that she got a doctor’s recommendation and packed in a hurry.
She remembers being arrested at the airport on February 17 after inspectors found the cartridges.
Along with the interpreter who provided an incomplete translation, Griner said she was given no explanation of her rights or access to a lawyer and was instructed to sign documents without an explanation of what they entailed. .
Griner faces up to 10 years in prison if convicted of transporting drugs. His trial began on July 1 and Wednesday was his first appearance as a witness. The court outside Moscow has held five previous sessions which were short, some lasting only around an hour.
Prescribed by a doctor
It’s unclear how long the trial will last, but a court has authorized Griner’s detention until December 20. She traveled to Russia to play for a Russian team during the WNBA offseason.
Griner testified Wednesday that she was in pain from injuries sustained during her basketball career. She pointed out that cannabis oil is widely used in the United States for medicinal purposes and has fewer negative effects than some other pain relievers.
A Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson said last week that the legalization of medical and recreational cannabis in parts of the United States has no bearing on what happens in Russia.
Criticism of the trial in the United States
The slow trial and Griner’s five-month detention drew sharp criticism from teammates and supporters in the United States, who officially declared her “wrongfully detained”, a designation strongly rejected by Russian officials.
Griner was arrested in February amid high tensions between the United States and Moscow before Russia sent troops to Ukraine later that month. Some supporters claim she is being held in Russia as a pawn, possibly for a prisoner exchange. Last week, the famous American footballer Megan Rapinoe said “she is being held as a political prisoner, obviously”.
BG, we love you. We will continue to speak your name. We will continue to press until you are back on American soil. It’s so unfair. FREE. BRITISH. GRINE. #weareBG
Russian media have speculated that Griner could be swapped for prominent Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout, who is imprisoned in the United States, and that Paul Whelan, an American imprisoned in Russia for espionage, could also feature in an exchange.
U.S. officials did not comment on the prospects for such a trade. Russian officials said no trade could be discussed until the legal proceedings against Griner are concluded.