She testified that she only received partial translation during her questioning by airport officials.
WNBA star Brittney Griner’s detention in Russia has been a long, slow process. Griner’s trial began nearly six months after her initial arrest at a Moscow airport, where authorities claimed to have found cartridges containing cannabis oil in her lugage. On Wednesday, Griner testified that poor translation is partially responsible for her predicament.
For several years, Griner had traveled to Russia to play basketball during the offseason. Because the WNBA’s salary cap stops them from earning as much as their other pro-league counterparts in the U.S., it’s common practice among WNBA players to play overseas when their U.S. obligations are finished. Griner was arrested in February while entering Russia to play for UMMC Ekaterinburg.
Officials said they found vape cartridges containing cannabis oil, which is illegal in Russia, in Griner’s luggage. As a result, she’s facing charges that can carry a prison sentence of up to 10 years. During her testimony Wednesday, per the Associated Press, Griner said a language interpreter only translated part of what was said during her questioning by airport officials, and that officials told her to sign documents without explaining them.
In addition, Griner said nobody explained her rights or provided access to a lawyer, AP reported. It wasn’t until a Feb. 19 court hearing that Griner received translation of the allegations against her, she said.
Neither Griner nor her defense team deny the presence of vape cartridges in her luggage. Last week, though, Griner’s lawyers said she was prescribed medical cannabis due to basketball-related injuries. Her team submitted a letter from a U.S. medical center that permitted Griner to use medical cannabis, medical results from 2018, and a 2020 medical report where a doctor confirmed Griner’s “severe chronic pain.”
In the United States, Griner’s detainment has been the subject of a lot of controversy. The federal government officially classified Griner as being “wrongfully detained” in May. Although that means the federal government should be much more proactive in facilitating her release, it hasn’t done much yet. Griner wrote a letter to President Biden that was delivered earlier this month, asking the federal government to step up its efforts. She wrote, “I realize you are dealing with so much, but please don’t forget about me and the other American detainees.”
As Griner’s trial continues, there have been efforts to bring more attention to both her and others detained overseas. In July, families of detainees unveiled a mural of 18 people detained overseas, including Griner, on the side side of a building in the Georgetown neighborhood. Per Reuters, the mural is just a few miles from the White House.