WNBA star Brittney Griner complained in a Russian courtroom Wednesday that she was not treated fairly upon her arrest at a Moscow airport in February for carrying cannabis oil.
Griner said that during her initial questioning, the interpreter translated only a small piece of what was said, forcing her to use a translation app to understand what was being said, according to The Associated Press.
She also testified that she was told to sign documents without being told what they contained.
Griner said that when she was initially detained, she was not told about her rights, nor was she given access to a lawyer.
The Phoenix Mercury center said throughout the investigation she was not given adequate translations.
“I remember one time there was a stack of papers that [the translator] needed to translate for me,” she said, according to The Washington Post. “He took a brief look and then said the exact words were, ‘Basically you are guilty.’”
Griner said that even at her arrest, she was not aware she was being detained until her passport was taken from her.
She pleaded guilty to the charge of carrying cannabis oil and could be sentenced to 10 years in prison.
On Wednesday, Griner’s lawyers asked her not to be forced to testify in the cage where defendants are usually placed because at 6-foot-9 she could not fit. The judge denied the request but allowed her to speak while seated inside the cage.
Basketball player Brittney Griner faced her sixth day in the ongoing drug trial in Russia. She was seen holding up photos of her loved ones. pic.twitter.com/1dHP4FlzuP
— Newsweek (@Newsweek) July 27, 2022
Griner told the court she knew the vape cartridges she brought were illegal in Russia.
“I still don’t understand how they ended up in my bag,” she said. “I had no intention to break the law.”
She said she was “rushed packing and stressed packing. … I was in a huge hurry.”
Griner said she was recovering from COVID-19 and needed to be tested before she left, adding to her stress.
“As they ended up in my bags by accident, I take responsibility, but I did not intend to smuggle or plan to smuggle [banned substances] to Russia,” she said during cross-examination.
Brittney Griner testified in a Russian court on Wednesday. Her defense team continued to present evidence that Griner, who was accused of bringing hashish oil into the country, had not intended to break the law. https://t.co/GzE8Ej2Vma pic.twitter.com/WVTW8xWHNI
— The New York Times (@nytimes) July 27, 2022
Griner said she used medicinal cannabis for pain relief. A Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman has said the legalization of cannabis elsewhere makes no difference in Russia, where it is illegal.
Maria Blagovolina, a lawyer for Griner, said her client “explained to the court that she knows and respects Russian laws and never intended to break them.”
“Brittney confirmed that she had a doctor’s prescription for the use of medical cannabis and that in the USA medical cannabis is quite a popular treatment among professional athletes,” Blagovolina said, according to The New York Times. “She emphasized that never planned to bring it to Russia and use it.”
Griner, who plays for UMMC Ekaterinburg in the EuroLeague during the WNBA offseason, said in court that Yekaterinburg, which is about 900 miles east of Moscow, “became her second home, and she has always been enjoying her time in Russia,” Blagovina said.
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