WNBA star Brittney Griner, who is on trial in Russia on drug charges, testified Wednesday (July 27) that she was made to sign documents that she didn’t understand and that she used medical marijuana to treat a knee injury.
Griner, who plays basketball in Russia during the WNBA off season, has been detained in Russia since February after her arrest at Sheremetyevo Airport near Moscow for allegedly carrying hashish oil vape cartridges in her luggage, which can carry a 10-year prison sentence. She pleaded guilty to drug charges on July 7. But she has said the vape cartridges were in her luggage mistakenly, and she didn’t intend to commit a crime.
The two-time Olympic gold medalist testified that she used Google translate on her phone to figure out what she was signing at the time of her arrest, CNN reports. But officials later took her to another room, confiscated her mobile phone, and had her sign more documents without explaining the content.
Griner’s attorney has said her detention, search and arrest were “improper,” according to the station. The basketball star testified that she didn’t have an attorney before her interrogation and no one explained her rights, which is required under Russian law to happen within three hours.
The Washington Post reported that the prosecutor accused Griner of bringing a “significant amount” of cannabis oil, 0.702 grams, into Russia.
"I still don't understand to this day how they ended up in my bags," Griner testified. She speculated that the drug ended up in her luggage from packing in a hurry, adding that she was aware of Russia’s drug laws but didn’t intend to violate them.
Griner explained to the court that she legally obtained cartridges with cannabis oil in the United States with a medical permit issued in Arizona, where she plays center for the Phoenix Mercury. She used the drug to help treat her inflamed knee and ankle joint.
Russian prosecutors almost always win convictions, and experts predict that she will lose her case. But there’s a new ray of hope that Russian authorities will release Griner.
The Biden administration on Wednesday offered to release Viktor Bout, a convicted Russian arms trafficker, in exchange for the release of Griner and fellow detained American Paul Whelen.
At a press conference on Wednesday (July 27), Secretary of State Anthony Blinken said that weeks ago, the Biden Administration presented a “substantial proposal” to Russia to win Griner and Whelan’s freedom according to CNN, but said he "can't and won't get into any of the details of what we proposed to the Russians over the course of so many weeks now."