Brittney Griner: Russian court decides US star to stand trial on drug charges

Griner arrives at her court hearing in Russia

American basketball star Brittney Griner is scheduled to stand trial in Russia on Friday on charges of illegal cannabis possession.

The 31-year-old, a three-time WNBA league champion and seven-time All-Star, could face 10 years in prison if convicted.

The trial date was decided at a brief hearing which the Phoenix Mercury player attended on Monday.

Her detention was also extended at least six months.

Griner was detained on 17 February at a Moscow-area airport after cannabis oil was allegedly found in her luggage.

The maximum prison sentence applies to “large-scale transportation of drugs.”

However, even if acquitted at the trial, the government in Russia has the authority to overturn any decision and still send Griner to prison.

Griner, affiliated to the Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA), is considered one of the most dominant players in her sport’s history.

She travelled to Russia to play for EuroLeague team UMMC Ekaterinburg, where she had worked since 2014 during the US off-season. Roughly half of WNBA players compete overseas in the off-season.

For most, it’s a way to augment their domestic income, with WNBA players being paid roughly five times more in Russia than they do in the United States.

Griner’s arrest has gathered political support in her native US and Anthony Blinken, the US Secretary of State, said Sunday in a televised interview: “I have got no higher priority than making sure that Americans who are being illegally detained in one way or another around the world come home.

He added: “I can’t comment in any detail on what we’re doing, except to say this is an absolute priority.”

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