Brittney Griner testifies that she signed documents without understanding what they said after she was stopped at the Moscow airport

“I still don’t understand to this day how they ended up in my bags,” said Griner, who has been detained in Russia since February, when authorities said they found cannabis oil in luggage at a Moscow airport and they accused her of smuggling. significant amounts of a narcotic substance. He faces up to 10 years in prison.

Griner, who plays in Russia during the WNBA’s offseason, pleaded guilty earlier this month, a decision the defense hopes the court will take into account and perhaps lead to a less severe sentence. But the US State Department has classified Griner as illegally detained and her supporters have called for her release, fearing she could be used as a political pawn amid Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Griner, who arrived at the regional court in Khimki near Moscow on Wednesday in handcuffs, said that when she was stopped at Sheremetyevo airport on February 17, she was forced to sign various documents without fully understanding what they included

At first, Griner said, he signed some documents, but he was using Google Translate on his phone and barely knew what was on them. She was later taken to another room, she said, where her phone was taken and she was forced to sign more documents without explanation.

Griner was not read his rights at the time, he testified, and no attorney was present.

The decision to plead guilty was Griner’s alone, a source close to her said. For weeks, Griner, his family, lawyers and experts had discussed the decision at length, and given the 99 percent conviction rate in Russian criminal cases, Griner was urged to weigh all the factors, including a statement that ultimately , could result in a shorter sentence. .

Wednesday’s hearing, the sixth of the trial, had, like the previous ones, the presence of the chargé d’affaires of the United States embassy, ​​Elizabeth Rood.

The trial is expected to end early next month, Griner’s lawyers have said.

Griner testifies that he used medical marijuana to treat knee injuries

At the start of his trial, a prosecutor accused Griner of intentionally smuggling drugs into Russia, but Griner later told the court that he had not intended to commit any crime, according to state media agency RIA Novosti. The cannabis oil was in the luggage, he said, as a result of his haste.

Griner reiterated that statement in his testimony Wednesday, telling the court that he was aware of Russia’s drug laws and had not meant to break them, adding that he was in a hurry and “stressed.”

Griner’s lawyers have told Russian judges that their client received medical cannabis for “severe chronic pain.” And when asked Wednesday how he received cannabis oil cartridges in the United States, Griner said he used a medical authorization document issued in Arizona to buy marijuana from a pharmacy for medical purposes.

Griner had a serious knee injury, she said, that put her in a wheelchair for four months, and she used medical marijuana when her knee and ankle joint were inflamed. But he never used it before tournaments, he said, because of the risk of disqualification.

“No, I would never risk that,” he said. “I never wanted to hurt my team.”

At a hearing Tuesday, Griner’s lawyers called a narcologist as an expert witness, who testified that “medical cannabis is a popular treatment specifically among athletes” outside of Russia, according to Maria Blagovolina, Griner’s lawyer.

Alexander Boykov, another lawyer for Griner, stressed that the defense’s position is not that Griner had “authorization to import” banned substances into Russia, but they hoped to show the court that “even in the United States, where it is allowed , was using these substances.” occasionally as prescribed by a physician, strictly for medical purposes to relieve pain.”

“We continue to insist that out of indiscretion, in a hurry, he packed the suitcase and did not pay attention to the fact that substances allowed for use in the United States ended up in this suitcase and reached the Russian Federation,” Boykov said . .

Some have speculated that Griner could be released in a prisoner exchange similar to Trevor Reed, an American veteran who was held in Russia for three years before his release in April.

But before any possible prisoner swap, Griner was expected to be convicted and also plead guilty, a senior US official previously told CNN.

‘She is one of us’

Griner’s arrest has become a focal point for high-profile American athletes, including USWNT soccer star Megan Rapinoe and four-time NBA champion Steph Curry, who called to scouts who stay focused on getting their release at last week’s ESPY Awards.

“As we hope for the best, we urge the entire global sports community to continue to stay energized on his behalf,” Curry said, as he joined WNBA stars Nneka Ogwumike and Skylar Diggins-Smith to address the issue .

“She is one of us, the team of athletes in this room tonight and around the world. A team that has nothing to do with politics or global conflict.”

Griner’s wife, Cherelle Griner, spoke to President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris earlier this month after publicly criticizing the administration’s response to his wife’s arrest.

Cherelle Griner said she was “grateful” for the call, but added that she would “remain concerned and open” until her wife was home.

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