American basketball star Brittney Griner testified at her drug possession trial in Russia that an interpreter translated only a fraction of what was being said while she was detained at Moscow’s airport in February and that officials told her to sign documents, but “no one explained any of it to me.”
The testimony by Griner, came on the same day that U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Washington has offered a deal to Russia aimed at bringing home the WNBA star and another jailed American, Paul Whelan in a sharp reversal of previous policy.
Griner, testifying for the first time in her trial, also said that besides the poor translation at the airport, she received no explanation of her rights or access to a lawyer during the initial hours of her detention.
The slow-moving trial and Griner’s five months of detention have raised strong criticism among teammates and supporters in the United States, which has formally declared her to be “wrongfully detained” — a designation sharply rejected by Russian officials.
“I didn’t have any intent to use or keep in my possession any substance that is prohibited in Russia,” Griner said, adding that she understood the charges against her.
’” Griner’s lawyer, Maria Blagovolina, told reporters after Wednesday’s session that Griner “repeatedly underlined that she had no intention to bring the forbidden substances into Russia.”
Griner’s defense team has submitted to the court a U.S. doctor’s letter recommending she use cannabis for pain.
Griner said Wednesday she used medicinal cannabis for relief from pain due to injuries sustained during her career, adding that it is widely used in the U.S. because it has fewer negative effects than some other painkillers A Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson said last week that the legalization of cannabis for medical and recreational use in parts of the U.S. had no bearing on what happens in Russia.
Elizabeth Rood, the U.S. Embassy’s charge d’affaires who has been attending the trial, said American officials “are going to continue to monitor the case of Ms. Griner very closely, as well as the case of all U.S. citizens detained or in prison in Russia.”