Griner, wearing a black hoodie, spoke briefly with US Embassy staff before the trial resumed. She held up a photo of supporters from the courtroom cage that is used to secure defendants during trials in Russian courts.
Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy, Elizabeth Rood, said afterward that Griner had confirmed “that she is doing well and is doing as well as expected under the circumstances.”
Brittney Griner’s mural of other detained Americans unveiled in Georgetown
Griner’s legal team called a drug expert who testified that cannabis was used as a medical treatment for athletes in various countries, including the United States. The defense presented evidence that Griner had tested negative for marijuana.
Maria Blagovolina, a partner at law firm Rybalkin, Gortsunyan, Dyakin and Partners, said after the hearing that Griner used cannabis oil for medical, not recreational purposes.
The hearing was adjourned after a consular official from the US Embassy delegation supporting Griner passed out due to the heat in the courtroom. Rood later told reporters the official was fine.
Griner has been in custody since mid-February after vape cartridges containing cannabis oil were found in his luggage at Sheremetyevo International Airport. She was arrested a week before the invasion of Ukraine, when relations between the United States and Russia were strained. The Kremlin rejected US claims that she was wrongfully detained.
Griner pleaded guilty to the charges – meaning she faces certain conviction – but she told the court she had no intention of breaking Russian law, explaining that she was in a hurry when she packed his bags for Moscow.
The lawsuit has deepened the rift between Washington and Moscow and heightened anti-American sentiment in Russia. State television spits aggressive propaganda daily, claiming that the United States provoked Russia’s war against Ukraine as part of a plot to dismember the country and gobble up its resources.
But Griner has a well of sympathy in Yekaterinburg, the city in the Urals where she played for local team UMMC Yekaterinburg in a Russian league that pays generous salaries to Americans to play in the WNBA offseason.
UMMC Yekaterinburg’s 1,000-member fan group on VKontakte, or VK, the Russian version of Facebook, primarily supports Griner.
“I hope everything ends well for Brittney and she can go back to her family,” a fan named Tatyana wrote in a group message citing testimony from team manager Maksim Ryabkov during the trial earlier in the month. month.
“A story that has been out of proportion. Let the athlete go,” Nadezhda Maiga commented under a recent photo showing Griner in a courtroom cage.
But some consider the accusation justified given that marijuana is illegal in Russia.
“The fact that she was arrested is ok, but I think giving her five years for this is too harsh because she didn’t bring it to sell, but for herself,” another user wrote. VK, Dmitry Butakov.
‘Terrified’ Brittney Griner writes to Biden to push for his freedom
Last week, the defense presented medical certificates showing that Griner suffered from chronic pain and was prescribed medical cannabis by an Arizona doctor.
After his testimony and his cross-examination this week, the defense will close his thesis.
It is unclear when the verdict and sentence will be handed down. In the final stages of the case, the prosecutor and defense will summarize their cases, and the prosecutor will specify the sentence the state is seeking. Griner will receive a “last word” – the defendant’s last chance to address the court about the charges.
Some Americans have expressed concern that an openly gay black woman could face legal bias in a country with a long history of racism and discrimination against the LGBTQ community.
Trevor Reed, a former Marine recently released from a Russian prison in a prisoner exchange in April, told a rally in support of Griner last month that she was “in many ways in a worse position. ” than him “because Brittney is African American.”
With political and diplomatic relations between Washington and Moscow frozen, sporting and cultural ties are also fraying, and it seems unlikely that WNBA players will continue to play in Russia. Griner’s American teammates in Yekaterinburg – Courtney Vandersloot, Allie Quigley and Jonquel Jone – returned home after Russia invaded Ukraine in February.
The US State Department has warned Americans not to travel to Russia.
The White House says Griner is being held under “intolerable circumstances” and will do everything possible to have her released along with other wrongfully detained prisoners, including Paul Whelan, an ex-Marine arrested in 2018 who was convicted of spying in 2020 and sentenced to 16 years in prison. He denies the charges, saying he was set up.
Russian officials have condemned public pressure in the United States for Griner’s release while hinting that Russia may be willing to hand her over in a prisoner swap – but only after the trial is over.
However, Moscow’s terms could be difficult for Washington to accept: media speculation is mounting over a potential swap involving Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout, who is currently serving a 25-year sentence in Illinois for conspiracy to killing US nationals and selling weapons to terrorists.
The White House and the State Department have declared the release of Griner and other wrongfully detained Americans their highest priority.
Natalia Abbakumova from Riga, Latvia contributed to this report.