Brittney Griner Testifies Her Rights Weren't Explained as She Was Detained in Russia

Adam WellsJuly 27, 2022

US WNBA basketball superstar Brittney Griner arrives to a hearing at the Khimki Court, outside Moscow on July 27, 2022. - Griner, a two-time Olympic gold medallist and WNBA champion, was detained at Moscow airport in February on charges of carrying in her luggage vape cartridges with cannabis oil, which could carry a 10-year prison sentence. (Photo by Kirill KUDRYAVTSEV / AFP) (Photo by KIRILL KUDRYAVTSEV/AFP via Getty Images)

WNBA star Brittney Griner testified at her drug trial in Russian court on Wednesday that her rights were not properly explained when she was detained at a Moscow airport in February.

Per Vladimir Isachenkov of the Associated Press, Griner said the language interpreter provided during her questioning "translated only a fraction of what was said and officials instructed her to sign documents without providing an explanation."

Griner was arrested in Russia, where she has played basketball during the WNBA offseason with UMMC Ekaterinburg since 2013, in February when a customs agent found vape cartridges containing cannabis oil in her carry-on bag.

She has been detained for 160 days despite the U.S. State Department classifying her as wrongfully detained in May.

After word of Griner's detention was made public in March, many WNBA players offered their support for her and urged the United States government to take steps that would bring her back home.

Brittney's wife, Cherelle Griner, spoke with President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris in June about their efforts to get Brittney home.

Griner's trial at Khimki City Court, just outside Moscow, began on July 1. The eight-time WNBA All-Star pleaded guilty to drug charges on July 7.

Per ESPN's T.J. Quinn, Griner's guilty plea was a strategic move to help facilitate a prisoner swap between Russia and the U.S.

Quinn also noted the plea was a "recognition that there was no way she was going to be acquitted."

Sean Gregory of TIME reported July 7 that a prisoner swap between the two countries remained "in play" with Viktor Bout, a Russian arms dealer found guilty of conspiring to sell weapons to a terrorist organization in 2011, possibly being sent back to Russia for Griner.

U.S. officials have not commented on the prospects or possibility of a prisoner trade.

Per the AP, Griner noted in her testimony on Wednesday she was "offered neither an explanation of her rights nor access to lawyers and was instructed to sign documents without receiving an explanation of what they implied."

If Griner is convicted on charges of transporting drugs, she faces up to 10 years in prison. At a closed-door preliminary hearing in June, the court extended the Phoenix Mercury star's detention by six months to Dec. 20.

There has been no official indication how long her trial will last.