Brittney Griner in Russian court for first time since proposed prisoner swap was revealed

WNBA star Brittany Griner made her first court appearance Tuesday since the Biden administration revealed it was ready to engage in a prisoner swap Griner and another US citizen in Russian custody, to free Paul Whelan.

grinner was Detained at Moscow airport in February and later accused of drug trafficking. If convicted, he faces up to ten years in prison.

At Tuesday’s hearing, Griner’s defense team continued to argue that a state-appointed forensic expert made technical and procedural errors when examining a cannabis-infused wipe cartridge found in his luggage upon arrival in Russia.

“test [of the cartridges] does not comply with the law regarding the completion of studies and does not comply with the norms of [Russian Criminal] Code,” testified another forensic expert, Dmitry Gladyshev, who was called to the stand by Griner’s lawyers.

Earlier in the trial, Griner pleaded guilty to carrying the cartridges in his bag, but maintained that he had packed them by accident and did not intend to violate Russian law, under which cannabis is used for both medical and recreational purposes. restricted to.

Last week, the Biden administration offered to exchange notorious arms dealer Victor Bout for Griner and Whelan, who was charged with espionage and sentenced to 16 years in Russia. Bout is serving a 25-year sentence in an Illinois prison.

So far, Russia has had a measured response, saying that there have been some bilateral contacts on the matter but no decision.

CNN previously reported that Moscow had requested the US to do a two-to-two swap and add a former colonel of Russia’s domestic spy agency to the exchange. Colonel Viktor Krassikov was convicted last year of the murder of a former Chechen fighter in a Berlin park in Germany.

“We still believe that the exchange of information on this subject should be different,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said in a press briefing on Tuesday. “Megaphone diplomacy and a public exchange of positions will yield no results.”

Griner’s lawyers said after the hearing that they were not involved in the talks and could not comment on the matter.

Elizabeth Rudd, the deputy chief of mission at the US embassy in Moscow, who was present in the courtroom, said the US would continue to do “everything” to bring US citizens home.

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