On Friday, Brittney Griner began her trial in a courthouse close to Moscow on allegations of smuggling drugs, which carry a maximum 10-year prison sentence.
Back in February, Griner, 31, was arrested at Moscow Airport.
In light of growing concerns that Griner is being exploited as a political pawn amid escalating tensions between the US and Russia, Griner’s supporters and US officials claim that she is being unlawfully held and have urged for her release.
During the trial, the prosecution accused Griner of having less than a gram of cannabis oil in her luggage.
“Being sufficiently aware that the movement of narcotic drugs is not allowed… no later than February 17, 2022, at an unspecified location under unspecified circumstances from an unidentified person [Griner] bought two cartridges for personal use, which contained 0.252 grams and 0.45 grams of hash oil, totaling 0.702 grams,” the prosecutor said.
According to TASS, the prosecution contends that Griner wanted to bring the illegal chemicals into Russia and packed them into a backpack and a suitcase. In Russia, cannabis oil is considered a narcotic drug and is controlled.
The second trial hearing is expected to be held on July 7.
According to reports, some have suggested that Griner would be released in a prisoner swap, but US Secretary of State Antony Blinken declined to comment on the possibility.
On Friday, Griner’s attorneys, Maria Blagovolina and Alexander Boykov, stated they were unaware of any preparations to swap Griner for a Russian prisoner in the US.
“We have no information about it, unfortunately,” the attorneys said.
One of the two witnesses during the hearing was a Sheremetyevo airport customs service employee. The lawyers said that he was questioned on Griner’s detention and personal search details and stated they could not share any of the information he divulged.
“She has the right to do so later,” The attorneys responded when asked why Griner declined to address the allegations in court.
US Embassy Charge d’Affaires Elizabeth Rood reiterated that Griner had been “wrongfully detained,” adding that “the practice of wrongful detention is unacceptable wherever it occurs and is a threat to the safety of everyone traveling, working, and living abroad.”
She said, “She is doing as well as can be expected in these difficult circumstances, and she asked me to convey that she is in good spirits and is keeping up the faith.”
She added, “The US government, from the highest levels, is working hard to bring Brittney and all wrongfully detained US nationals home.”