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Basketball: Brittney Griner appears in court in Moscow

MOSCOW – More than four months after being arrested at a Moscow airport for possession of cannabis, American basketball star Brittney Griner appeared in court on Monday for a preliminary hearing ahead of her trial.

The Phoenix Mercury star, considered in some polls the most gifted female athlete in the United States, could face 10 years in prison if convicted of large-scale drug trafficking. Less than 1% of defendants in Russian criminal cases are acquitted and, unlike the United States, acquittals can be overturned.

A trial date has not been announced, but is expected soon. Griner was recently ordered to remain in pretrial detention until July 2. The hearing, which was held behind closed doors at the court in the Moscow suburb of Khimki, was to address procedural issues.

Another sticking point in Moscow-Washington relations is Griner’s detention and trial. She was arrested at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport less than a week before Russia sent troops to Ukraine, adding to already high tensions with sweeping US sanctions and Russian exposure. US arms shipments to Ukraine.

Amid tensions, Griner supporters had kept a low profile in hopes of a quiet outcome, until May when the State Department reclassified her as wrongfully detained and handed over oversight of her case. to a special presidential envoy for hostage cases.

The move brought additional attention to Griner’s case, with his supporters encouraging a prisoner swap like the one in April that brought home US Navy veteran Trevor Reed in exchange for a Russian pilot convicted of conspiracy. of drug trafficking.

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