November 28, 2023

More than four months after she was first arrested, WNBA star Britney Greiner is expected to appear in a Russian courtroom Friday to begin a trial on drug charges that legal experts have said will almost certainly end in conviction despite the uproar. in the United States for her release.

“There is basically bias because the Russian judicial system says they should not be tried unless the defendant is found guilty,” said William Pomeranz, acting director of the Kennan Institute and expert on Russian law. There is no real idea or expectation that the accused is innocent. There’s no presumption of innocence, really.”

Russian customs officials said they found e-cigarette cartridges containing traces of cannabis oil in the Griner’s luggage when it passed through a security checkpoint at an airport near Moscow on February 17. Colony.

Grenier’s lawyer, Alexander Boykov, said Monday that he expects the trial to begin on Friday and last up to two months.

“We don’t know at this point what evidence they have,” Pomerans said. “We don’t know how many volumes of evidence they want to read in the registry, but usually, in this type of case, they are enormous and significant.”

Greiner’s arrest reaches a sensitive geopolitical moment during Russia’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine and amid Russia’s strained diplomatic relations with the United States and some European countries. From the beginning of the arrest of Greiner, its supporters feared that Russia would use it during the global conflict.

In May, the US State Department confirmed these concerns by declaring Greiner “unjustly detained”. This has transferred responsibility for the case to the Office of the Government, which leads and coordinates US diplomatic and strategic efforts on hostage issues abroad.

Britney has been classified as unjustly detained since April 29, which means that the US government has determined that she is being used as a political tool and, as a consequence, is engaged in negotiations for her release, regardless of the legal process. Griner’s agent, Lindsay Kagawa Colas, said in an email on Wednesday. “As such, our expectations – including Britney’s family – remain that President Biden cuts a deal to get her home.”

The Griner family and their supporters are increasingly appealing to President Biden and the US government to secure Griner’s release.

Kagawa Colas recently coordinated a letter to Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris signed by groups including the National Organization for Women, the Human Rights Campaign, the National Urban League and the National Action Network. The letter called on the government to strike a deal for Greiner’s release.

In April, after agreeing to a prisoner exchange, Russia released Trevor Reed, a former US Marine who had been sentenced to nine years in prison after being accused of endangering Russian police officers during an altercation.

Kimberly St. Julian-Farnon, Ph.D., said Reed’s deteriorating health in Russia was likely a factor in Moscow’s willingness to release him. A student in the Department of History at the University of Pennsylvania, whose areas of study include African-American experiences in the Soviet Union, Ukraine, and Russia.

“The problem is that, politically, Britney is worth a lot more in terms of the prisoner trade than Trevor Reed because of her profile,” said St. Julian-Farnon, who consulted with the WNBA Players Association on Grenier’s detention.

Butt, an international arms dealer, was convicted by a US court and sentenced to 25 years in prison. Russia also has an interest in the release of Roman Seleznev, the hacker who was convicted in the United States of running a massive credit card and identity theft operation and sentenced to 27 years in prison. Besides Greiner, Russia also detained Paul Whelan, a former US Marine who was sentenced to 16 years in prison for espionage.

“This is the classic dilemma of hostage cases,” said Thomas Firestone, a former Justice Department official who worked in Moscow as a lawyer. “If you negotiate for release, you may encourage hostage-taking in the future. If you don’t, the person may not be released.”

Jake Sullivan, Biden’s national security adviser, told reporters Tuesday that he and Secretary of State Anthony Blinken have spoken to Greiner’s wife, Cheryl Greiner, in recent days.

“The United States government is actively engaged in trying to resolve this issue and bring Britney home,” Sullivan said. “He has the full attention of the president and every senior member of his diplomatic and national security team,” he added. We are actively working to find a solution to this issue and will continue to do so without rest until Britney gets home safely.”

Russia announced on Tuesday that it had barred Biden, First Lady Jill Biden and others from entering the country in response to widespread sanctions. The list included four senators: Republicans Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, Susan Collins of Maine, Ben Sasse of Nebraska, and Democrat Kirsten Gillibrand of New York.

“Free Britney Grenier,” Sassi said in a statement. “It doesn’t matter when Putin throws a tantrum and blocks Americans from entering Russia – but we have a problem when he takes an American prisoner.”

Griner is one of the most decorated basketball players in the world – a seven-time WNBA All-Star, a two-time Olympic gold medalist and the first openly gay athlete to sign an endorsement contract from Nike. I traveled to Russia after a two week break to play for UMMC Ekaterinburg, the women’s professional basketball team.

Since then, updates on Griner have been rare and mostly distributed by Russian state media. According to Griner, Griner communicated with his WNBA teammates through letters and emails Associated Press. But Cheryl Greiner said AP That a long-planned phone call between the two did not occur due to a logistical error at the US Embassy in Moscow.

“I find that unacceptable, and I don’t have confidence in our government right now,” Sheryl Greiner told The Associated Press in late June. “If I can’t trust you to take a call on a Saturday outside of business hours, how can I trust you to actually negotiate on my wife’s behalf to get home?”

In a radio interview Wednesday with Reverend Al Sharpton, who is also the founder of the National Action Network, Cheryl Greiner said she hasn’t spoken to her wife since February but has received messages.

“She told me she was fine,” Cheryl Greiner said of her wife’s letters. She’s like, ‘I’m fine, baby. I’m tough. I’m not me now. When I get home, it will take a minute for me to get back to myself, but I’m holding on. I won’t break until I get home. I won’t let them break me. I know they’re trying, but I’ll do my best to keep going until I can go home.”

Paris Hatcher was horrified after learning of the extension of Britney Grenier’s detention on Monday and seeing a photo of Grenier circulated in Russian state media.

“She looks scared,” said Hatcher, whose organisation, Black Feminist Future, has created the online #BringBrittneyHome campaign. This is about dignity. This is about the humanity of a person. She deserves to be in touch with her family.”

Saint Julian-Varnon said the rights of defendants in Russia contrast sharply with someone accused of a crime in the United States.

“You have no right to a jury trial,” said Saint Julian-Varnon. You do not have the right for your attorney to call any witnesses they want. The whole case against you and the case supporting you comes from the evidence collected by the state.”

However, St. Julian-Varnon said she remained cautiously optimistic that Greiner might eventually be released either through a prisoner exchange or by being convicted on a lesser charge and agreeing to pay a hefty fine.

“There are a lot of moving pieces,” said Saint Julian Farnon. “I want to stay optimistic, because it’s still her life. It’s Britney’s life. It’s Cheryl’s life.”

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