The partial closed session, with limited media presence in the courtroom, was decided at the “request of the defense, at the request of Griner herself”, said Polina Vdovtsova, the court’s spokeswoman. of Khimki, a town on the outskirts of Moscow.

In the afternoon, the trial was adjourned to July 7.

The defendant arrived in court handcuffed, wearing a t-shirt bearing the image of American musician Jimi Hendrix.

The Phoenix Mercury player came to Russia in February to play there during the American offseason, a common practice for basketball players who sometimes earn a better living abroad than at home.

It was upon her arrival at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport that the double Olympic gold medalist with the United States (2016, 2020) was arrested in possession, according to the accusation, of vapers and liquid to cannabis base.

The prosecutor said Friday that the quantity in solid form would have represented less than one gram of cannabis.

At trial on Friday, a customs representative testified.

The basketball player nevertheless faces up to 10 years in prison.

US authorities initially kept a low profile on his case, which was not revealed to the general public until March 5.

– Prisoner exchanges –

Against the backdrop of continued deterioration in Russian-American relations, particularly with the conflict in Ukraine, the highest authorities in Washington then seized on the matter and declared that Russia was “unfairly” detaining the 2m03 star, aged 31 years.

His case is being followed by the United States Special Envoy for Persons Taken Hostage.

“The United States Embassy and the country care deeply about this matter,” US Embassy representative Elizabeth Rood said in court.

Ms Griner “told me to convey that the morale is high and that she is keeping the faith”, she added.

The wife of the detained athlete, Cherelle, however, felt in an interview with CNN that the actions of the American authorities were insufficient, despite good intentions.

“I don’t think the maximum effort is being made because, again, rhetoric does not match action,” she said, citing the case of a planned phone call between the couple and aborted according to her because of the embassy.

Cherelle Griner said she hoped to meet President Joe Biden because, she said, he has the “power” to repatriate Brittney.

Defense lawyer Alexander Boïkov said during a break that the defendant had not yet spoken at trial.

He also assured that she had “no complaints about her conditions of detention”.

In view of Russian case law in similar cases, the young woman can expect a heavy sentence, to be served in a Russian penal colony.

Americans and Russians accuse each other of detaining their respective nationals for political purposes. Several prisoner exchanges have taken place in the past.

In April, former US Marine Trevor Reed, sentenced to nine years in prison in Russia for violence he denied, was exchanged for a Russian pilot, Konstantin Yaroshenko, imprisoned in the United States since 2010 for drug trafficking in connection with the Colombian FARC.

Other exchanges of this type would be the subject of talks.

Among the most mentioned names, that of Paul Whelan, an American sentenced to 16 years in prison for espionage and who claims his innocence, and the famous Russian arms trafficker Viktor Bout, arrested in Thailand in 2008 and who is serving a sentence of 25 years in prison in the United States.

After Brittney Griner’s appearance, US Foreign Minister Antony Blinken said he and his country had “no higher priority than bringing her and other wrongfully detained Americans home. like Paul Whelan”.

A case similar to that of the basketball player resulted in a diplomatic agreement between Moscow and Israel.

In January 2020, Russian President Vladimir Putin pardoned Israeli-American Naama Issachar, imprisoned in Russia for “drug trafficking”, during a meeting in Moscow with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who left with the young lady.

Ms. Issachar was arrested in April 2019 while transiting through Sheremetyevo airport in Moscow on a flight from India to Israel with a connection in the Russian capital. Nine grams of cannabis were found in his checked baggage.