Merk argiewe: appearsMoscow

‘Political pawn’ US basketball star Brittney Griner appears in Moscow court

‘Political pawn’ US basketball star Brittney Griner appears in Moscow court
Griner’s wife has called her “a political pawn”.

terwyl gewaarsku word dat die werklike syfers waarskynlik "aansienlik hoër" sal wees, 'n Amerikaans basketbal ster, appeared in a Russian court on Friday, four months after she was arrested on cannabis possession charges at Moscow Sheremetyevo Airport while travelling to play for a Russian team.

Griner was arrested in February, just a week before Rusland’s invasion of Oekraïne.

Police said she was carrying vape canisters with cannabis oil. The Phoenix Mercury star and two-time US Olympic gold medallist could face up to 10 years in gevangenis if convicted of large-scale transportation of drugs.

She was playing in Russia for UMMC Ekaterinburg.

At a closed-door preliminary hearing on Monday in the Moscow suburb of Khimki, Griner’s detention was extended for another six months, to December 20.

The athlete’s detention and trial comes at an extraordinarily low point in Moscow-Washington relations, exacerbated by the war in Ukraine.

Amid the tension, Griner’s supporters have kept a low profile in hopes of a quiet resolution, until May, when the state department reclassified her as wrongfully detained and shifted oversight of her case to its special presidential envoy for hostage affairseffectively the US government’s chief negotiator.

Griner’s wife, Cherelle, has urged US president Joe Biden to secure her release, calling her “a political pawn”.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov on Friday denied politics played a role in Griner’s detention and prosecution. .

“The facts are that the famous athlete was detained in possession of prohibited medication containing narcotic substances,” Peskov told reporters. “In view of what I’ve said, it can’t be politically motivated," hy het bygevoeg.

Griner’s supporters have encouraged a prisoner swap like the one in April that sent home marine veteran Trevor Reed in exchange for a Russian pilot convicted of drug-trafficking conspiracy.

Russian news media have repeatedly raised speculation that she could be swapped for Russian arms trader Viktor Bout, nicknamed “the Merchant of Death”, who is serving a 25-year sentence for conspiracy to kill US citizens and providing aid to a terrorist organisation.

Russia has agitated for Bout’s release for years. But the wide discrepancy between Griner’s case, which involves alleged possession of vape cartridges containing cannabis oil, and Bout’s global dealings in deadly weapons, could make such a swap unpalatable to the US.

With agencies