The trial for American Women’s Basketball Player Brittney Griner got underway on Friday in Moscow, four and a half months after she was charged with possession of cannabis oil.
The two-time U.S. Olympic gold medalist and center player for the Phoenix Mercury was seen wearing a Jimi Hendrix T-shirt as she was guided into the courtroom in the Moscow suburb of Khimki while handcuffed.
In February, Griner was detained at a Moscow airport on suspicion of possessing cannabis, The Dallas Express reported. If found guilty, she could spend up to 10 years in prison.
Fewer than 1% of defendants in criminal cases in Russia are acquitted, and unlike in American courts, acquittals can be reversed.
The prosecution interviewed two witnesses for the trial. An airport official spoke in open court, and an unidentified witness gave testimony in a closed session, according to RIA-Novosti, a Russian state news agency.
When two other witnesses failed to appear, the trial was adjourned. The next session is scheduled for July 7.
Outside of court, Griner’s attorney Alexander Boykov told reporters, “I wouldn’t want to talk on the specifics of the case, on the charges, or to comment on our position on it because it’s too early for it.”
Griner was arrested one week before Russia invaded Ukraine. As a result of the invasion, ties between the U.S. and Russia have been strained even further.
Griner’s friends, family, and other basketball players began publicly pleading for her release in early May when the U.S. State Department officially deemed her “wrongfully detained.”
Russia’s continued emphasis on its willingness to negotiate her release has led some experts to theorize that the legal processes may simply be a pretense, The Dallas Express reported. If Russia condemns the basketball player, it will be easier to reach an agreement with the United States for her return.
“This may sound counterintuitive, but the trial is a crucial part of the process,” said Dr. Danielle Gilbert, assistant professor of military and strategic studies at the United States Air Force Academy. “The Russians have to keep pretending that this is a legitimate arrest. There is no reason to believe that the charges are legitimate or that her trial will be fair.”