The trial in Russia of Brittney Griner is scheduled to start on Friday (July 1), but experts don’t expect it to end well for the American WNBA star.
William Pomeranz, the acting director of the Kennan Institute and Russian law expert, told The New York Times that cases don’t go to trial in the Russian judicial system unless a conviction is expected.
“There’s no real idea or expectation that the defendant could be innocent,” Pomeranz added. “There’s no presumption of innocence, really.”
Griner, 31, was arrested on Feb. 17 by the Russian Federal Customs Service at Sheremetyevo Airport near Moscow after agents said they discovered hashish oil vape cartridges in her luggage.
An investigation by the customs service was allegedly opened and resulted in allegations of large-scale transportation of drugs, which can carry a 10-year prison sentence.
“We do not know at this point what evidence they have. We don’t know how many volumes of evidence they want to read into the record, but usually, in this type of case, it’s formidable and significant,” Pomeranz stated.
U.S. State Department officials have classified Griner as “wrongfully detained.” The case goes to trial amid rising tension between the Cold War enemies as Russia continues its invasion of Ukraine.
Meanwhile, Giner’s supporters back home are urging President Biden to take action. Griner’s agent, Lindsay Kagawa Colas, coordinated a letter, which included signatures from the National Urban League and the National Action Network, calling on Biden to make a deal for Griner’s release, according to the Times.
But the price might be high because Griner is worth more politically to Russia than other Americans released in previous prison swaps, Kimberly St. Julian-Varnon, a Ph.D. candidate specializing in the African American experiences in Russia, told the newspaper.
The Biden administration has assured Griner’s family and supporters that the president is working to secure her freedom.
“It has the fullest attention of the president and every senior member of his national security and diplomatic team, and we are actively working to find a resolution to this case and will continue to do so without rest until we get Brittney safely home,” White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan told reporters on Tuesday (June 28) aboard Air Force One, according to The Hill.