Biden calls Brittney Griner’s wife as Russia says she can appeal after verdict – live

Biden calls Brittney Griner’s wife as Russia says she can appeal after verdict - live
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Brittney Griner’s wife says she will not be quiet any more

More than four months after her arrest in Moscow, US women’s basketball star Brittney Griner appeared in a Russian court on Friday for the beginning of her trial on drug charges.

The 31-year-old athlete was seen arriving at Khimki City Court outside of Moscow in handcuffs, with US embassy staff in attendance.

The charges against her include intentionally transporting narcotics. Facing up to 10 years in prison in Russia, Griner accepted the charges and did not enter a plea, reports said.

A centre for the Phoenix Mercury, Griner had played for UMMC Ekaterinburg in Russia during the WNBA off-season, and was arrested on her way home when Russian airport officials say they found vape cartridges with traces of hashish oil – an offence in the country.

Griner’s wife Cherelle has pleaded for President Joe Biden to secure the WNBA star’s release and after complaining about inaction from the administration was called by the president and Vice President Kamala Harris on Wednesday.

Court proceedings resume on Thursday 7 July, and Russian officials have said Griner can seek clemency or appeal after any verdict is handed down.


What has Russia said about Brittney Griner?

Russia has defended the arrest of US women’s basketball star Brittney Griner, pushing back on claims by the Biden administration that her detention in the country is “illegal”.

In a statement, Russian authorities said 31-year-old Ms Griner was detained by Moscow police in February based on “objective facts and evidence”.

“She was caught red-handed while trying to smuggle hash oil,” the statement, issued by Rusia’s foreign ministry to CNN, said. “In Russia, this is a crime.”

Russia defends arrest of WNBA star Brittney Griner: ‘She was caught red-handed’

Comments came ahead of detention hearing in Moscow for Olympic gold medalist

Oliver O’Connell6 July 2022 21:45

White House insists Brittney Griner a ‘priority’

White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre on Tuesday said the case of WNBA star and US olympian Brittney Griner’s continued detention in Russia is “a priority” for President Joe Biden and his administration after a letter from the basketball player to Mr Biden was made public by Ms Griner’s family.

“This is an issue that is a priority for this President,” said Ms Jean-Pierre, who noted that the US has classified Ms Griner as being “wrongfully detained” by the Russian government.

Andrew Feinberg reports.

Biden won’t meet Brittney Griner’s family but White House insists she’s a ‘priority’

‘Clearly, we believe she was wrongfully detained, we believe she needs to come home’

Oliver O’Connell6 July 2022 20:45

State Department not commenting in any detail on Griner case

State Department Spokesperson Ned Price says the US is not in a position to comment publicly “in any detail” on Brittney Griner’s detainment in Russia: “We do not want to say anything that would potentially jeopardise the chances of seeing an American released.”

Oliver O’Connell6 July 2022 19:45

Brittney Griner’s ‘Heart and Sole’ shoe donation programme continues during lockup

Brittney Griner isn’t just known for her high-flying achievements on the court as a member of the WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury.

The detained basketball star also started a programme in the city called Heart and Sole that donates shoes to unhoused people walking the hot streets of Arizona barefoot.

Here’s more about the initiative, courtesy of ESPN.

Oliver O’Connell6 July 2022 18:45

Biden calls Brittney Griner’s wife after she attacked him for failing to help WNBA star

President Biden and vice-president Harris spoke on Wednesday with the wife of Brittney Griner, the WNBA star who has been detained in Russia since February.

Ms Griner’s family, including wife Cherelle Griner, have been critical of the White House, saying the president hasn’t done enough to free the Phoenix Mercury player from an unjust detention on minor drug charges.

Josh Marcus reports.

Oliver O’Connell6 July 2022 18:15

Brittney Griner ‘only playing’ in Russia due to gender pay gap, says US teammates

Basketball star Brittney Griner – who appeared in a court in Moscow this week – was only playing in Russia because of the low wages paid to women athletes in the US, which her friends and colleagues say make it tough to make a living.

Griner, 31, who was brought to a court in the Moscow suburb of Khimki in handcuffs, has been charged with drug smuggling after she was arrested at an airport allegedly carrying cannabis oil in her luggage. She faces up to ten years in jail if convicted.

Her supporters say she is the victim of wrongful arrest and have called on President Joe Biden and others to press for her release. She was detained one week before Russia invaded Ukraine.

Her wife, Cherelle Griner, told CNN she’s struggled to keep her composure, while urging the US authorities to do more.

Andrew Buncombe has more.

Brittney Griner ‘only playing’ in Russia due to gender pay gap, says US teammates

‘As painful as this is – it’s going to force us to have a real conversation’

Oliver O’Connell6 July 2022 17:45

Biden and Harris speak with Brittney’s wife Cherelle

President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris have spoken with Cherelle Griner following her criticism of the administration for its apparent inaction to free her wife from incarceration in Russia.

Per the White House:

President Biden, joined by Vice President Harris, spoke today with Cherelle Griner, the wife of Brittney Griner who is wrongfully detained in Russia under intolerable circumstances. The President called Cherelle to reassure her that he is working to secure Brittney’s release as soon as possible, as well as the release of Paul Whelan and other US nationals who are wrongfully detained or held hostage in Russia and around the world. He also read her a draft of the letter the President is sending to Brittney Griner today.

The President offered his support to Cherelle and Brittney’s family, and he committed to ensuring they are provided with all possible assistance while his administration pursues every avenue to bring Brittney home. Today’s call follows recent calls that National Security Advisor Sullivan and Secretary of State Blinken have had with Cherelle in recent weeks and this past weekend. The President directed his national security team to remain in regular contact with Cherelle and Brittney’s family, and with other families of Americans held hostage or wrongfully detained abroad, to keep them updated on efforts to secure the release of their loved ones as quickly as possible.

Oliver O’Connell6 July 2022 17:29

UConn star urges Biden to bring ‘hero’ Griner home

UConn women’s basketball star Paige Bueckers is the latest athlete to call on the Biden administration to bring Brittney Griner home.

In an appearance on ESPN’s NBA Today, Ms Bueckers said: “Just a message to President Biden, the government, and anybody with high enough power to help get Brittney Griner back home. I believe it’s way far due for her to come home, and she’s an American. She’s a hero. She’s our sister in the WNBA, and she’s just family to the whole United States. So, just whatever it takes to get her home, I think it’s definitely time.”

Watch below:

Oliver O’Connell6 July 2022 17:00

What is hashish oil and how did it land Brittney Griner in a Russian courtroom?

WNBA star Brittney Griner was on her way to Russia to play basketball when customs officials allegedly discovered contraband in her bag.

According to the Russians, Mr Griner allegedly packed hashish oil in her bag, likely in the form of a vape.

It was that discovery that led to her now five month detention in Russia. On Friday, Ms Griner appeared in Russian court for the first time and faced charges of smuggling less than a gram of hash oil inside of her luggage. If convicted, she could face up to 10 years in prison.

But what is it?

What is hashish oil and how did it land Brittney Griner in a Russian courtroom?

Ms Griner’s appeared for her first court hearing on Friday

Oliver O’Connell6 July 2022 16:30

Report: Biden to respond to Griner letter as soon as today

NBC News reports that President Joe Biden is expected to respond as soon as today to the handwritten letter sent to him by Brittney Griner.

The WNBA star directly appealed to the president for his help in securing her release from jail in Russia on Monday.

The network cited administration officials, who also said that it is not yet clear whether the response will be in writing, through a phone call, or otherwise.

One official told NBC: “He will certainly respond soon.”

Oliver O’Connell6 July 2022 15:59